New Orleans music thrives in old buildings. I'm so glad I got to see the Dr. John "Funky But It's Nu Awlins" show at BAM Friday night. I guess BAM felt like throwing a party to celebrate its 150th anniversary -- 1861, it was. That the building has not been demolished and the site rebuilt on is a minor miracle in a city that cannibalizes its architecture. Fortunately, I missed the night the functionaries spoke.
(Robt. Christgau's assessment of Dr.
John's three-week residency at BAM is here, and Larry Blumenfeld's pieces for
the Voice are here,
It was a
wonderful show. Though it felt like a party where everybody onstage knew
everybody else, which indeed they did, it was deceptively intricate.
songs had the same feel. The show rolled from one highlight to the next. Big
Chief Donald Harrison -- who is bringing his New Orleans band to Symphony
Space on April 27, attendance mandatory -- rocked the house with vocals and
sax on "Hey Pocky Way" and dueted with Ronnie Cuber on bari. Nicholas Payton
killed it on "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans." Davell
Crawford's blistering version of "Junko Partner" will stay with me a long time
-- definitely one of the peak musical experiences of '12, so far, and I'd buy
the record that will surely come out of this just for that number. Ivan
Neville. Dirty Dozen. Tami Lynn. Irma Thomas.
opened with Dr. John heading up a second line into the hall from the back, in a
li'l parade with the Dirty Dozen blasting away. As they passed us, I saw
tried-and-true New Orleansophile
Bonnie Raitt second-lining
her way down the aisle behind Dr. John, and I knew I was in the right place and
not at the wrong time, either. Ms. Raitt didn't appear in the show, but she
knows what's good. She happened to be in town in connection with her lovely new
album, Slipstream (videoclip here),
which I'd seen a stack of -- a depleted stack, I might add, meaning people were
buying it -- at Starbuck's earlier in the day. May it sell a million or
three. She was a guest on John Schaefer's Soundcheck yesterday.
(JS also conversed
with Dr. John earlier in the month, a true meeting of the vocabularies.)
It's been a while since I bothered to notice what albums were coming out
in a given week, but this is a week to listen up, with some titles out today
(Tuesday is the traditional street date, dating back from the era of record
stores, something today's college students no longer remember). Jon Cleary's
got an album of songs by great American songwriter Allen Toussaint, called Occapella, which I
haven't heard but which I hear is great, and why wouldn't it be? The Tremé
for season two comes out on Rounder. And the second season of Tremé
comes out on DVD
-- if you want to support the show, says David Simon, buy the DVDs. (The third
season of Tremé will air in the fall on HBO.) May they all sell a million
And now we get personal.
Boutté's new album comes out
today -- available from CD Baby, or better yet go buy it from the artist at
d/b/a if you're in New Orleans, or at Louisiana Music Factory. Produced by Blake
Leyh (music supervisor of Tremé), it's titled All About
The title song, "All About Everything," is my
translation from Portuguese of Chico Buarque's "Sobre
Todas as Coisas." (Buarque's album version
"Sobre Todas as Coisas"
is, to me, songwriting on the highest level.
translated this lyric (and others) over a period of years as a personal project,
and I've sung it for years for my own pleasure. When you do something like
that, you forget you didn't write it. I certainly didn't write the song, but
the English version is mine, as faithful and singable a translation as I could
make. So in some sense I'm personally invested in it as a songwriter, and we
croaking songwriters love to hear our songs in the voice of a great
interpreter. Hearing John Boutté sing this one, I feel like I've been blessed.