April 17th, 2012 by Blake
Hey Now -
Today is a good day: the first day I can share a bunch of new music that I love with everyone I know.
+MUSIC FROM THE HBO ORIGINAL SERIES TREME, Season 2 +
In case you were unaware of this, I have The Best Job In The World. I get to hold Lucia Micarelli’s violin bow, and I get to tell Wendell Pierce “B FLAT, MOTHERFUCKER!” for real. I am actually paid money to try and out-pedant David Simon over Fess minutiae (ain’t gonna happen), and world-famous directors thank me sincerely for standing around and listening to brilliant musicians play music. And all that is before lunch. In truth, the real reason it’s The Best Job In The World is because I have been privileged to witness intimately the glorious, tragic, beautiful, infuriating New Orleans Music Community in extreme close-up, and I can tell you there is nothing else like it on the planet.
It’s all here, encapsulated into a 70-minute smoke-free distillation of pure musical power, torn from the gutters and streets and bars and clubs of New Orleans circa 2011-pretending-to-be-2007. If you have ever tried to use the men’s room at The Maple Leaf at 1am on a Tuesday night, you can see why you might be better off just listening to track 9 on this CD, “Take It To The Street” by Rebirth Brass Band. Do you still have the scars from last year’s whipping at Cajun Mardi Gras? This year, stay home and listen to track 14, “La Danse de Mardi Gras” by Steve Riley, Steve Earle, & The Faquetaique Mardi Gras.
Seriously, this album is a living, breathing slab of real New Orleans musical life. It’s available everywhere music is sold, today. Here’s the track list:
- 1 New Orleans After The City – Hot 8 Brass Band
- 2 From The Corner To The Block – Galactic, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Juvenile
- 3 Carved In Stone – The Subdudes
- 4 Sisters – John Boutté
- 5 Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most – David Torkanowsky & Lucia Micarelli
- 6 Heavy Henry – Tom McDermott
- 7 Mama Roux – Henry Butler
- 8 What Is New Orleans? – Kermit Ruffins and The Barbecue Swingers
- 9 Take It To The Street – Rebirth Brass Band
- 10 Road Home – DJ Davis & The Brassy Knoll
- 11 Oye, Isabel – The Iguanas
- 12 Long Hard Journey Home – The Radiators
- 13 Carnival Time – Al “Carnival Time” Johnson & The Soul Apostles
- 14 La Danse de Mardi Gras – Steve Riley, Steve Earle, & The Faquetaique Mardi Gras
- 15 Ferry Man – Aurora Nealand & The Royal Roses
- 16 Frenchmen Street Blues – Jon Cleary
- 17 Hu-Ta-Nay – Donald Harrison & Friends
- 18 You Might Be Surprised – Dr. John
+JOHN BOUTTÉ – ALL ABOUT EVERYTHING +
About a year ago, John Boutté and I were sitting in his 7th Ward garden when we had a simultaneous epiphany: let’s make a record together. It really happened like that – at the same moment we both independently had the same idea. And since that day, the entire process of creating this music has worked just the same way. Everything as it was meant to be, and I’m pretty sure the end result is as good as anything either of us has ever done. I can’t wait for everyone to hear this record! Here are some notes about the tracks:
1. These Blue Days
I wrote this song for John last spring, while Harley was teaching Annie how to write a song (“I wrote a song, bitches!”). It was the first thing we recorded for the album, and we knew it was all going to work out after that.
2. Take Me To The River
Memphis comes down to New Orleans… Kirk Joseph is killing it playing Tina Weymouth’s bass line on sousaphone, and Cleary’s B3 is speaking in tongues.
3. No, No (The River)
We tried to re-create the Barthlomew/Fats song faithfully, and this is what happened. A whole lot of saxophones, all playing in unison. Tom McDermott’s ivory tickling is way different from Fats on the original, but equally satisfying in its own way.
4. The Grass Is Greener
A previously unreleased Dave Bartholomew tune, with lyrics re-written in our songwriting lab. I asked Dave’s son Don if he had any unreleased songs we might use, and he gave us a version of this. A classic Bartholomew groove, but John wasn’t feeling the original words which were a litany of romantic betrayal. So we decided to re-write it as a pro-NOLA anthem. Also, I wanted to write some lyrics where “New Orleans” was pronounced in a song the way people say it, rather than “New Orleeeeeens,” the way most songs sing it. Trombone Shorty and his brother 12 Andrews take some amazing horn solos on this track.
5. War Is All Over
Allen Toussaint gave John a dozen un-recorded tunes to consider, and we picked this one out of the amazing embarrassment of riches. The crowd vocals on the chorus include my daughters Aiko (8) and Ryo (5). Hey Barack Obama, you should license this as the official song for the 2012 Democratic Convention.
6. All Around The World
The most straight-ahead tune on the album. After having the Yamaha grand piano at The Music Shed tuned for the recording session, Cleary decided instead to play the out-of-tune clunky upright, which gave the whole song a gorgeous spontaneity.
7. A Thousandfold
An instantly-classic Paul Sanchez song. Paul knows how to walk the fine line between poignant and sappy like few others. We decided to record this as a rock-steady tune, which momentarily confused some of the New Orleans musicians, but worked out well in the end.
8. Heaven’s Door
As an admirer of Alex McMurray’s song writing, I asked him if he had anything that might be good for John? As a matter of fact, he had this thing on the shelf he had been thinking might be perfect for John, but he had never found the opportunity to ask him. ”Heaven’s Door” is the result. Dr. Michael White’s clarinet raises this to another level.
9. All About Everything
We were thinking about doing a song or two sung in Spanish. I asked historian/writer/musicologist Ned Sublette if he had any thoughts about repertoire, and he said, “Don’t have John sing in Spanish! Do a classic Spanish or Portuguese song translated into English!” After a long evening arguing the relative merits of Nat King Cole, Caetano, translations, musical interpretation, beer vs. rum, Cuba vs. Brasil, etc etc, Ned sat down with my Les Paul and sang his translation of the Chico Buarque song “Sobre Todas As Coisas.” I was stunned, and knew right away that it could be the centerpiece of the album. We had to work this song very carefully, and actually recorded it several times before arriving at the perfect balance of elements.
10. Lush Life
I thought John should sing a very difficult epic jazz standard on the album, and this seemed like a natural fit. People had asked him to sing it over the years, but he never had. Wary of aiming high and failing, but ultimately more scared of chickening out, we “took on the monster” as Donald Harrison described it. Donald Harrison, David Torkanowsky, Herlin RIley, Roland Guerin, and John Boutté, all at their finest, together. I am not objective on this subject, but this is now my favorite version of this song ever recorded.
Talk about taking on the monster. Leonard Cohen himself said something like “Please don’t record any more versions of Hallelujah. K.D. Lang has it covered.” But the song is a favorite of Boutté fans, and it is so damn fun to play, and sing. I knew that if we did it we would have to bring it down to New Orleans, and make it the equal of any other version. I think we succeeded in that, with the help of the magnificent Opera Creole choir, and again, Jon Cleary’s exquisite musical chops.
12. See You On The Other Side
New Orleans musicians, doing what they do… how can you go wrong? Herlin Riley playing an exploded funeral dirge beat, Matt Perrine taking it home on the Sousaphone, Tom McDermott hammering calculus equations at the piano, and John Boutté bidding us farewell in that sweet, stirring, angel/devil voice. I’d follow him anywhere, and I did, and you can too.
So that’s why today is a good day. Please re-distribute all of this far and wide, spread the word, enjoy and share the music. I really believe in both of these records, as I believe in the power of music.
Posted in NOLA Music, Treme Soundtrack | Comments (0)
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