Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, Randy Newman’s Louisiana 1927 became a familiar anthem for New Orleans and was performed regularly by various artists at various benefits and performances. For a few years, the song couldn’t be performed without producing teary eyes throughout the audience.
While the song talks about flooding, it’s a bit ironic that it became an anthem for the City of New Orleans. You see, in 1927 levees south of New Orleans were actually blown up to divert flood waters AWAY from and out of the “bowl” known as New Orleans where the levees were being pressured from 14 inches of rain inside of New Orleans and the swollen Mississippi River on the outside of the levees.
What resulted was The Great Flood of 1927, an event that was to paralyze the Deep South for nearly six months and leave nearly 1,000,000 people (mostly poor farmers) homeless and penniless just before The Great Depression would deliver a similar blow to other areas of the country.
My father was a year old when “the flood” created tent cities throughout South Louisiana. My grandmothers referred regularly to the flood mostly in terms of before and after. There was a certain disdain for the “city folk” of Baton Rouge and New Orleans who were saved and protected while the poor Cajun farmers were sacrificed. It took decades to recover.
I was nine years old in 1973 when flooding that year caused the new Morganza Spillway to be opened, again flooding millions of acres of “country” land. While the spillways relieve pressure on the levee system and save the cities, they are the equivalent of blowing up the levees in 1927. Today, May 14th, the Morganza Spillway was once again opened to relieve the levee system. Evacuations have started and the wait begins…
Say a prayer or two for the people of South Louisiana. This is what they face in the coming weeks…
After Katrina, then the Oil Spill, and now an epic flood it’s getting harder and harder to keep getting up after the body blows. But, somehow I know that the enduring spirit of the Cajun spirit will prevail….yet again.
For now, all I can do is listen to my favorite rendition of the ode to that great flood over 80 years ago and pray that they actually don’t “wash us away”.
Jazz Fest 2011 - Jimmy Buffett by Gordon Robinette
So, this week the came the official and announcement of the 2011 Jazz Fest poster. The poster is a highly sought after commodity for many music consessieurs and collectors. Both the subjects and the artists vary through the years since the poster advertising the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1975. The great Louis Prima was immortalized by the great Tony Bennett last year — a true collectors’ item on several levels.
Louis Prima 2010 - Tony Bennett
Probably the most identifiable and beloved Jazz Fest posters were done by James Michalopoulos. He uses the splendid French Quarter architecture as a backdrop for several New Orleans legends who have been mainstays of Jazz Fest and of New Orleans music. The series of Dr. John, Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino and Allen Toussaint all convey exactly what Jazz Fest is about and the greats that have made IT great.
Dr. John, Louis "Satchemo" Armstrong, Fats Domino, Allen Touissaint
And then there’s the great Cajun artist, George Rodrigue, of Blue Dog fame — and recent savior of the Youngsville Heritage Oak. Rodrigue combines his iconical dark oak tree and ever-popular blue dog to immortalize Louis Armstrong (once again), Pete Fountain and the great Al Hirt.
Satchemo, Pete Fountain & Al Hirt
Again, these images capture the essence of these great talents and their impact on Jazz music and making New Orleans its “Mecca”.
So, imagine my surprise at this year’s poster. First, the artist is Gordon Robinette. Robinette IS well known in New Orleans, but not as an artist. He is best known as a talking head/talk show host at WJBO radio station. I must say that as an artist, he is quite accomplished. I do like how he borrowed from the much beloved concept of Michalopoulos’ use of French Quarter architecture and I am impressed that he includes a future Jimmy Buffett looking over his shoulder at the young, broke street performer behind a Falcon, no less. (Which reminds me…I have a long, lost story about a Falcon. But I digress…that’s for another day.)
However, I am perplexed at just why Jimmy Buffett is featured on a JAZZ FEST poster? Now, don’t get me wrong. My Jimmy love is strong. See here, here & here. But this choice seems a bit indulgent. Is it a payback for Jimmy’s fantastic support during last year’s oil spill crisis and his wonderful free concert that many homies considered his “homecoming” to the Gulf Coast?
Or, perhaps it was meant to bolster Jimmy’s spirits after his recent dive off the stage in Australia? A pat on the back for investing in the coast by expanding his Magaritaville franchise in Pensacola, FL and Biloxi, MS? Dunno. But one thing I DO know is that Jimmy Buffett is not the impactful son of the South that the other icons that graced Jazz Fest posters before him.
I DO love Jimmy…but I’m conflicted. He is from Mobile, AL…where I live. He has played here ZERO times since he graduated from McGill Institute back in 1966 (He was a cheerleader, for Christ’s sake). His concert at the Gulf was the first time he’s played there in forever, even though his sister, Lulu, has a VERY popular bar/restaurant on the Intercoastal Canal in Gulf Shores. Jimmy is more a child of Key West and the Carribean. A few years ago, he started playing Jazz Fest, but he has NEVER been a staple there. While Robinette’s portrait refers to Jimmy’s street performing in the late ’60s, the fact is that Jimmy Buffett spent a relatively short period of time on the gummy, stinky streets of the French Quarter before heading out to Californina and ultimately, grounding himself in South Florida.
So, to wrap this all up…I am pumped up about the Jimmy poster because of the awesomeness that is Jimmy Buffett and all he stands for. But in true Libra fashion, I am disappointed that something that has generally been pure and true to its’ core concerning subjects chosen to promote one of the most fantastic musical experiences on Earth has chosen a subject that is, well, not exactly true to itself.
And, just to quench that burning question of MY favorite Jazz Fest poster EVAH?
On Saturday, we headed out on our maiden voyage in our new boat. Mini-DD and Mr. D fished while I took pictures and listened to my “Boat” playlist CD on the on-board CD player (pretty cool).
Mini-DD fishing near Dog River Bridge
Mr. D giving instruction
We were on the water early and the scenery was just extraordinary.
I can get used to this.
Today, we decided to pick up some steamed seafood from one of the local seafood houses. It was crabs and crawfish abound….
A few days ago, my friend, Pat from Cocoderie (Amy’s Dad) made me aware of an old song from Elvis’ homage to New Orleans’ King Creole. Knowing that I’m a huge fan of ‘The King’, Pat passed along this song from the movie.
Crawfish, Elvis Presley
I absolutely love this clip. The street scene is so vintage New Orleans and that street basically looks the same today.
Since KD announced a mini-“photo” challenge over at her blog, A Half Hour A Day, regarding flowers in black & white that had a quick turnaround, I figured I’d capture some spring foliage on my woman’s weekend in New Orleans. So, in between good eats and great company, I managed to find the patron plants of the Deep South, Azaleas.
Technically, Azaleas are Rhododendrons, and are mainstay plant material in beds of virtually every Southern homeowner. My father was a Nurseryman for over 45 years and was actually a field grower of Azaleas, so I have special kinship with the “belle of the South”. Ironically, Mobile is actually called the “Azalea City” because of the proliferation and varieties found here. But I digress…
The point of the challenge was to use black & white to show character of the flowers, in particular textures of petals, stamins, and leaves. I’m not sure if I captured it exactly, but I gave it a good shot. The New Orleans azaleas were soft pink, but taking the color out really does draw your eye to different facets of the flower, particularly the veining in the petals.
Truthfully, I have never noticed the “ink stains” on the top petals before and likely wouldn’t have without putting these in black & white. While this isn’t part of the challenge, I think it’s important to show the same picture in color to really get the perspective of how the subject is changed when converted to black & white.
More of my “series” from New Orleans:
And, here are a couple of different varieties that are actually in my yard. This one is red:
This one is purple:
I think I still prefer the soothing that color brings when it comes to flowers, but black & white definitely “pops” texture and depth.
And, just to bring it around full circle, here is the King to lay some New Orleans on ya (in black & white, of course).
First, let me say that Taylor Hicks owes me nothing. Nada. Not a thing.
I used to think that he did, but let me say here (clearly), that I was wrong. You see, four years ago when I rabidly followed Taylor on the cheese fest that is American Idol, I was envigorated by a young man who appeared to beat the odds, defy “the man” and strike a blow for the every day music lover. He was a refreshing throwback to good, “old” music that was pure, un-synthesized, and “real”. He was the everyday musical hero who came to save the day.
After AI, I expected Taylor to remain “all about the music” and continue to defy the musical ogres who control content and dole out the uninspiring pablum derived from electronic manipulation. It was evident from Taylor’s first post-AI release, Taylor Hicks, that there was more influence from those writing the checks than any of us would have preferred. Through the whole time, Taylor seemed to be impersonating some character in a play and while fans largely supported the record, it rang hollow on the charts. It seemed that the daring, soulful style and smokin’ harmonica accompniment was largely absent from the record, leaving listeners, including me, wondering just where Taylor Hicks went.
His live tour was very successful and likely garnished Taylor enough dough to break away from J Records (whether mutual or not), start his own label, and take time for the next record that, maybe…just maybe, would more closely represent what fans so desparately want to hear from the soul man. There have been some detours along the way, including the Broadway role of Teen Angel, that I simply did not agree with because it’s not my vision for the dude. But, really…what do I know?
Oddly enough, Grease appears to have been the catalyst that provided some public acceptance and a bit of a springboard for, perhaps, a redemption of “America’s pick”. Even though I still cringe at the notion of Taylor crooning out Beauty School Dropout, I can’t deny that it’s been good for his career. Hey, it’s a mean to an end, I guess. I have said all along, if the music is good, people will listen and all of the other extra-cirricular activities won’t mean a thing.
That brings us to the release of Taylor Hicks’ new CD, The Distance. I’ve been listening to it for a few days along with some other new music that I’ve been recently turned on to. I wanted to give it a few days to simmer before I commented. First, let me quench your curiosity and say that overall, this CD is MUCH better than the first release.
There’s a definite ease on this record that was absent on Taylor Hicks. While that effort was frenetic, disjointed and a bit out of control, The Distance is thoughtful, balanced and comfortable. It is very reminiscient of his pre-Idol work and shows that Taylor seems to be going “back” to his core, which is exactly what most people loved about him in the first place. This should have been his Idol release, had they been smart. The arrogance of greedy people who believe their “formula” for making a record and maximizing its profit never ceases to amaze me, but we continually see these dinosaurs take unique and genuine talent and turn them into something that is the opposite of what actually makes them appealing, and then scratching their head at its failure.
But, I digress…back to the review.
As I previously detailed, the first single, What’s Right is Right, is a simple, pleasing tune with a great video. It’s currently doing well on AC radio and seems to be a happy medium between what’s expected from fans and what’s accepted by the industry.
But what about the rest of the record? Well, I think I get Taylor. He is not just one style or one genre. Like me, he likes a lot of different types and styles of music and I think that’s what he wanted this record to be. Recently, he did a guest DJ spot on “My Turn” on 100.3 (Newport Beach, CA), no doubt as part of his promotion of this release (which I have to say is 200% better than the crack PR team at J Records and The Firm). Whoever is in charge of promotion this time is doing a fabulous job. Anyway, Taylor’s playlist for the hour long DJ stint is very telling.
St. Dominic’s Preview – Van Morrison Gasoline Alley -Rod Stewart How Long – Ace Rainy Night In Georgia – Brook Benton You Belong To Me – Carly Simon Hurricane Water – Citizen Cope Foggy Mountain Breakdown – Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs Where I’m From (Alabama Frame Of Mind)-Shelby Lynne Life’s Been Good – Joe Walsh Lowdown in Lodi – Freddie King Something So Right – Paul Simon Arc Of A Diver – Steve Winwood Don’t Think Twice – Susan Tedeschi I’m In Love – Wilson Pickett
To hear Taylor’s DJ skillz, click on the following player.
Now, I have to say that this was one of the most redeeming things I’ve heard from Taylor in a while. It validated that the dude still has great music taste and still true to it. Many of the songs on the new CD incorporate “sounds” from Taylor influences like Steve Winwood, Keb ‘Mo, Delbert McClinton, Van Morrison, and The Meters. He signed on a quality producer in Simon Climie, who has produced Eric Clapton and who is an accomplished keyboardist and song writer in his own right. In addition, some of Clapton’s touring band performed on the record, including Doyle Brahmall II and bassist Nathan East and was joined by Paul McCartney’s drummer, Abe Laboriel, Jr.
This is a quality record, with quality songs, musicians, and mixing. I like it. I have to say that it’s very entertaining and there are a few really good tracks on it. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Maybe You Should. Written by Taylor and Nashville songwriter Gary Nicholson (who contributes on several songs), it is a great ballad that reminds me of Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me. That could be because songwriter Michael Reid co-wrote both of them. While I love Taylor’s raspy blues feel to this song, I could also see Keith Urban doing this song.
Along with Nineteen, Seven Mile Breakdown (co-penned with Hicks by Spoonful James’ guitarist and pre-Idol buddy, Wynn Christian) and the title-track, The Distance, Maybe You Should has serious Country potential, if appopriately brought to Nashville. Even the blues number, Wedding Day Blues is oddly reminiscient of Garth Brooks’ Country anthem, Friends in Low Places.
While there’s certainly some Country influence, this CD is not a one trick twang pony. One of my favorites, Keeping It Real, is influenced by co-author Delbert McClinton’s wily humor along with a great strider piano, New Orleans sound. It’s also the ONLY track on the CD with a harmonica accompniment. A pity, as I really dig the harp.
There’s also plenty of “soul” in the Nick Lowe cover, I Live on a Battlefield, and one of my all-time favorite tunes, Woman’s Gotta Have It, where he is accompanied by AI buddy, Elliott Yamin. Now, Woman’s Gotta Have It is one on my Music Maven “All-Time Favorite” list, but James Taylor’s 1976 version from his In the Pocket CD which is, in my opinion, one of the best albums ever made — but that’s a different subject for a different day. I really love the meshing of voices between Elliott and Taylor and especially Taylor harmonizing background vocal (fulfilling Simon’s ambition for him), but the beginning of JT’s version is more to my liking. Got me to wondering what a combined version would sound like. Hmmmm….
Once Upon a Lover and New Found Freedom are my “throw away” tracks. I didn’t like the Latino sound of West Texas Sky and I don’t care for it on Once Upon a Lover.New Found Freedom is more of an Idol “coronation” songthat just doesn’t measure up to the other songs on the CD.
The marketing plan of three “special tracks” via different store exclusives are in play for The Distance. Wal-Mart offers the Ray Charles’ cover Hide Nor Hair, Target provides Indiscriminate Act of Kindness, and iTunes has Yes We Can, Can. While I haven’t been able to sample Hide Nor Hair, Indiscriminate Act of Kindness reminds me of Taylor’s much heralded performance of the Ray classic, Georgia. It is indulgent and very non-descript. While I know this won’t be popular with the “Soul Patrol”, Indiscriminate Act of Kindnessis NOT a song that exhibits Taylor Hicks’ talent nor is it a very appealing cut. However, if you’re looking for a theme song about drug addiction and recovery, this is likely as good as it gets.
On the other hand, the iTunes “special”, Yes We Can is a veritable who’s who of funk & boogie. Written by Allen Toussaint and covered by the likes of soul man, Marc Broussard and The Pointer Sisters, Yes We Can pays homage to the soul/zydeco/funk of the Southern Gulf Coast. While Taylor may be considered the “forgotten idol”, the fact that Ivan Neville, Delbert McClinton and Stax legend, Steve Cropper provide back-up, indicates that “real” musicians “get” Taylor. Even Marc Broussard couldn’t pull that off.
Music Maven gives Taylor Hicks’ The Distance 4 of 5 stars. Buy it.
Well, this is not exactly what I had planned for the Labor Day weekend, but here we are….again.
As I explained in my Tropical Storm Fay post last week, we are “stayers” so we’ve made our preparations, stocked up on supplies, lanterns, gas, ice, beer, and wine. (Believe me, as the storm draws near, the latter is a necessity.) While Mobile will not get a “direct hit”, we are on the right or the “wrong” side of the storm where the storm surge and rain bands are the worse. We’ll likely lose electricity so I may not be available for a while.
However, the real issue with this storm is New Orleans. Gustav is predicted to make landfall just west of New Orleans, putting the city and Lake Ponchartrain in the path of the Eastern eye wall, which is the absolute worse place to be. In my opinion, this storm will be worse on New Orleans than Katrina. This storm could very well break the back of a city that has experienced such wide-spread suffering. Even though residents know that New Orleans is basically a “bowl” and the levees will fail if strained at all, the shock of seeing damage from 20 ft. of water is just not something you get used to. If this storm plays out like it looks to, New Orleans may very well never recover.
Most of our family is in Lafayette and New Iberia (which is west of New Orleans and Baton Rouge) and most are staying put. Those that live in low lying areas are bunking in with others and are basically safe.
It appears that they will experience the immediate Western side of the storm, which will likely not be too severe. One son stayed in Lafayette and the other evacuated here and is staying with us. We’ll stay in phone contact with everyone as long as land lines and cell towers hold out.
Thanks for all of the thoughts and prayers. They are needed and appreciated. We will be fine. We always are.
Made it back in one piece from our New Orleans excursion for the family wedding. What a weekend!
On Friday, we made the two-hour trip to The Big Easy and arrived just in time for the first of the wedding festivities — the Rehearsal Dinner at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse. We had a great meal with great fellowship between the two families forging this new covenant.
Paul is a graduate of Notre Dame (but in Law School at LSU) and his mentor, Fr. Tim Sculley made the trip from South Bend via The White House earlier in the day to preside over the weekend festivities. He was very gracious and a whole lot of fun. He gave Mini-DD his card and told him to give him a ring when he’s ready to enroll in college….We’ll see.
After our wonderful dinner, we all retired to The Carousel Lounge at The Monteleone, the famous French Quarter Hotel affectionately dubbed “de Clouet Central” for the weekend. Here’s a party pic of the groom (center) with his Uncle Mark and his brother, John’s, wife Jeanne.
We all gave him a hard time regarding that sear-sucker suit, but hey, it worked. And, I actually made it through the “revolving” experience with no injuries.
The next morning brought some extreme humidity, but we weren’t deterred from enjoying the day. We headed out to The French Market to acquire a little jewelry, some sunglasses and wonderful homemade candles.
Now the French Market used to be commonly known as Dryades Market and my husband’s family actually owned the spot about 200 years ago. It’s a very diverse and active place that offers all kinds of possibilities. There is traditional New Orleans fare, like Mardi Gras masks….
…as well as various and a sundry articles for purchase. Mini-DD got some sunglasses and a trade bead bracelet and I secured some decorative flip-flops along with some nice silver jewelry to wear with my new dress for the wedding. All Mr. D wanted to do was get through the market to the Gazebo. Once there, we sat an enjoyed the open air lounge and restaurant by listening to some locals do some a variety of NOLA inspired tunes.
One favorite that was covered —
Don’t You Just Know It, Huey Smith and The Clowns
You might remember some of Huey’s better known hits.
Rockin’ Pnuemonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu
Sea of Love (written by Huey Smith)
After a Banana Daiquiri and a Shrimp Po-Boy lunch, we began our trek down back to the hotel with a couple of stops along the way. Here’s a picture of Mini-DD in front of St. Louis Cathedral where his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather married 247 years ago on May 11th.
Part of the loveliness of New Orleans is it’s history, particularly for those of us with historical Louisiana backgrounds. History is readily apparent in the wonderful architecture that is The French Quarter and the European influences are very self-evident.
The wonderful residents of the area preserve and protect the architecture and make the environs so inviting, but I have rarely ever seen residents actually sitting on the balconies, except for Mardi Gras.
The beautiful courtyards are interwoven with commerce and tourism, inviting walkers to partake of their tranquility.
Of course, New Orleans is never short on dichotomies. An example of just how diverse Nahlin’s can get is this “robot” found just a few hundred feet from the previous picture.
It never ceases to amaze me how creatively some people can make a living.
After a short walk back to our hotel and an afternoon nap to prepare for the nighttime festivities, we gathered with our family at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, where Fr. Sculley presided over a very happy ceremony. Each wedding has it’s own personality and while some are touching and others poignant, this one was joyous. Everyone was smiling from start to finish, just happy to be there and be a part of the joining of two fun-loving, happy people.
It was back to the hotel for the reception, where Paul’s groom’s cake greeted us.
Some of the LSU fans there were foiled in their plan to sabotage the cake, but otherwise it was generally well-received.
The reception was full of visiting, laughter and enjoyment. I was particularly elated to see my God-child, Dana and her boyfriend, Dave, there.
They happen to be good friends of the bride and groom. Dana is a wonderful young woman studying to be a Cardiologist. I am so very proud of her and the wonderfully independent woman she has become.
Also among the crowd were a few Music Maven patrons:
Parents-to-be, Amy and Michael Paul (Mr. D’s nephew and the groom’s brother) a/k/a Neil Diamond connoisseur. If you haven’t already done so, check out Amy’s blog. She has a great wedding re-cap.
Another family blogmeister was also in attendance. Mr. D’s other nephew, Mark, and his wife of one year, Karen, always bring some life to the party.
Mark is a very witty writer and also has a nice wedding overview. There’s even a bonus pick of Michael Paul in “Sweet Caroline” mode.
Part of the reason that I started this blog was to expose readers to music that they may not have known about or explored very deeply. I will continue to talk about artists like Paul Pena, to ensure that others are least exposed to great music that might not otherwise be known. Mark shared with me that my recent Randy Newman post of Louisiana 1927 has now made him an ardent fan of Randy Newman. I have to say that this has given me great satisfaction. If that wasn’t enough, Mark’s brother, Matt shared with me that he and his girlfriend, Paige, read and love the blog.
Exposing these young people to music that they haven’t really been “into” before but like once they give it a chance is very rewarding and I’m so happy that they come by and read my ramblings about music.
So, the wedding was tremendous fun that culminated in a midnight “second line” with the newlyweds happily heading up the train.
If you’re not familiar with the “second line” concept, here you go….
So, the happy couple is off to NYC for their honeymoon and we’re all back to our normal lives, with another great memory and with inspiration from various sources. Hope it’s a great week….for everyone.