I was at the 2014 event and it was terrific. As well as a great music line-up celebrating the soul of the South, other positives included free admission, constant performances (two stages at either end of the park alternating), an arts market, handy location in the city’s downtown, and last but no way least, a smorgasbord of barbeque and other delicious smoked treats.
Luke Winslow-King comes in many guises.
There’s the front man of the Luke Winslow Band, live, playing his heart out, collecting tips, working the room with an easy charm, eking out a living in New Orleans, a city full of music and opportunities, but also full of amazing musicians all trying to make a mark.
There’s the beautiful slide guitarist, able to fill in more than capably as a side-man with the likes of Little Freddy King, grinning and handsome, looking like a cross between Gary Cooper and Kevin Costner.
Then there’s the recorded version. On his new release Everlasting Arms (Bloodshot Records), he is looking sombre and traditional, a man and his guitar whose influences run deep through the Mississippi Delta and all the way to his new home, New Orleans. Continue reading
Mississippi Bluesman LEO “BUD” WELCH
Ramps It Up On Second Album – ‘I Don’t Prefer No Blues’
At age 82, bluesman Leo “Bud” Welch rocks on stage like a teenager — dancing and spinning as he beats out jagged chords and rough-hewn solos on his pink, sparkle-covered guitar. I was a mesmerised witness to his performance at The Crescent City Blues n BBQ festival in New Orleans last year. Phew, what a set and what a joy to behold a real-deal Mississippi blues veteran whose star is finally beginning to shine (in the same belated vein as the great, late R.L. Burnside).
Welch’s first album Sabougla Voices was released at the tender age of 81. That album was heralded as a fresh breath of rust-bearing air — a throwback to an era of rural music free from outside influences and a reminder that blues-fueled primitivism is still personified by a handful of living Southern artists.
What’s in store for us in his follow-up I Don’t Prefer No Blues? That raw energy and old-school juke-joint authenticity appear to be going to blend full-throttle in the ten songs on his second release for Fat Possum Records’ subsidiary Big Legal Mess. Reportedly, the album is a garage-blues manifesto that weds waves of guitar distortion and gut-bucket drums with Welch’s smoke-and-ash voice.
‘I Don’t Prefer No Blues’ is what the preacher at Welch’s church said when he found out Welch was making a blues album. “Up until Sabougla Voices came out, I had only played spirituals in the church and in tents for about 50 years,” Welch explains. But these days Welch does prefer blues. Playing blues on stage since the debut release has proven transformative for the resident of the small town Bruce, Mississippi. He’s toured parts of the U.S. and Europe, and played for audiences of all ages at international festivals such as Crescent City and the Americana Music Association Festival and Conference in Nashville.
“I’m doing things I never thought I’d do,” Welch relates. “I never thought I’d get to play outside of Mississippi or travel to other countries. Now I’m playing for all kinds of people and seeing the world.
…the first time I had to go on a plane I thought they’d have to blindfold me, knock me out and tie me up to get me on board.
I’m also keeping all my bills paid up to date, which I couldn’t before.”
Big Legal Mess owner and house producer Bruce Watson took the wheel for the new album, steering Welch into crunching, genre-blending sonic and creative territory. “The deal I made with Leo was the first record would be gospel and the second would be blues,” Watson says. “Honestly, I was just trying to do something different than your typical blues record — trying to f–k things up a bit. I think I succeeded.”
The opening cut, a take on the traditional song “Poor Boy” frames Welch’s scorched-oak singing with a rattling drum kit, upright bass, a choir and the angelic voice of Sharde Thomas — a doyenne of ancient Mississippi music who inherited the Rising Star Fife & Drum Band from her late grandfather Othar Turner. Mississippi neo-trad. firebrand Jimbo Mathus also adds clangorous guitar to the album.
“I grew up on a farm and had to walk two miles to school in the rain and mud,” he recounts. “Most of the time we didn’t have no money from March to November, when the crops came in, but I made it through eighth grade and then I started plowing mule and hoeing cotton.” Welch worked as a logger for the 35 years before he retired in 1995. “I stood next to that chainsaw all day, so that’s why I don’t hear too good.”
That may explain the consistently raw, buzzing volume of Welch’s guitar on stage live. “Playing guitar is my favorite ‘like,’ ” Welch says. “I learned by hearing records by Jimmy Reed, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters … and I saw them when they came through Bruce. I once even had a chance to audition for B.B. King’s band, but I didn’t have the bus fare to get to Memphis.”
“Right now is a great point in my life,” Welch continues. “I’m doing things I’ve never been able to do before and I feel good doing them at an age when a lot of people are dead. So as long as I can I want to go around the world trying to send satisfaction to people. Doing that is a great feeling to me.”
Roll on release date March 24!
Sunday 19 October 2014. New Orleans Louisiana.
Today was the third and final day of the Crescent City Blues & BBQ festival at Lafayette Square. It was also the last day of my fifth and final music festival. Tomorrow I head back to Australia after almost forty days in the USA pursuing live music, music heritage and culture.
During the now familiar walk to Lafayette Square, I noticed it was a good deal cooler than the past few days here. I caught the last song of the first act of the day – the impressive young man Luke Winslow-King – and got up front for the performance that followed – Brother Tyrone and the Mind Benders. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina had flooded most of the city, Brother Tyrone walked out of his apartment in the Lafitte housing project in New Orleans into chest high water. Holding a small child over his head, he and his family made their way to the New Orleans Convention Centre, where, after two days, they were able to reach Baton Rouge in the back of a stolen pickup truck. In 2008, as the city slowly returned, Brother Tyrone made the decision to start work on Mindbender, his first new recording in almost eight years.
The release of Mindbender had the effect of lifting his profile and his deep rhythm ‘n’ blues spread beyond New Orleans. After accepting an offer to appear in Europe, Tyrone recorded a special collection of blues and soul for limited release at these concerts. Subsequent demand for the CD, Cue Stick Soul, has been great, leading to a full worldwide release in 2012. It was an enjoyable show, with a good dose of gospel-infused funk (one of the lead singers was a Reverend who had just finished his church service). His newest release features a number of very nice songs he performed today, such as “I Never Found A Girl”, “If You Ain’t Cheating” and “When It’s Gone, It’s Gone”.
There must be a New Orleans Saints NFL game on today, there are signs of the local football team everywhere – shirts, caps and assorted decorations, even some of the performers are decked out in team gear, such as Mia Borders who mentions the Saints to the crowd as she begins her set. Her style is what I would call sassy funk and r’n’b, but with a nod back to classic soul tunes such as Stax studio’s “What A Man” and Bill Withers’ “Use Me” (she covered both songs today, the latter song being Mia’s second favourite of all time – I never found 0ut what was number one). She hails from New Orleans and has a new album called Quarter-Life Crisis and today she sounded pretty good indeed – “Mama Told Me” and “Shooter” were a couple of numbers that stood out for me.
It was at this time, I recalled there was an Oral History Stage at the festival that I had not actually seen and that Tennessean Valerie June was being interviewed at this very time. I found its location after a while, a small theatre under a Hall over the road on St Charles Avenue. Valerie June was speaking about her falling in love with the Piedmont guitar picking style and the work of the Carter family, particularly the great Maybelle Carter. (This was a nice link back to my time two weeks ago on The Crooked Mile Road and visit to the Carter Family Fold just out of Bristol Virginia). I must find out more on this Piedmont style, as it has cropped up many times.
June refers to her music as organic moonshine roots music – she played a couple of songs off her recent, highly regarded album Pushing Against A Stone. I love that album and have enjoyed her performances at Byron Bay’s Bluesfest and at the Americana Awards show in Nashville this year. One very interesting topic covered in the discussion was her collaborations with Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, and others, under the banner of The Wanderers.
It was time to go back to the Square for a late lunch and I tried one of Woody’s fish tacos, which was surprisingly bland.
Valerie June was just starting her set with R. L. Burnside’s “Rollin’ and Tumblin'”, “Tennessee Time” and “Somebody To Love”. Just her vocals and her rustic guitar style was a sparse and delightful contrast to many of the power outfits that tend to dominate a festival such as this. I was enjoying the still and the calm of it all.
Back to the Oral History Stage where Bobby Rush was to be interviewed. Attending this session turned out to be an inspired choice, and a beautiful way to finish this festival and my whole trip.
First some facts about this man Bobby Rush.
– born in rural Louisiana and has spent most of his life in Chicag0
– now living in Jackson Mississippi due to it being central to the South where most of his work continues to
– first recorded in 1951 and has released “337 records”
– at Chess Records in Chicago when Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf and Etta James moved to the label
– in the early days, he and the band were required to perform behind a curtain, due to the audience being white
– Sammy Davis Jr once was in his band
– he is most proud of the fact that his career has been largely self-managed and self-contained, in contrast to many of his colleagues who were penniless by career or life end.
I found the session immensely engaging. At the end, Rush seemed in no hurry to leave, happy to chat, sign autographs. A very small group of us stayed on and we talked for a while. Photos were taken, he gave me his signed business card and a hug when I mentioned my Australian origins. It was a remarkable thing to get this close to such a warm person and renowned performer.
Time to eat – this choice was better than the last – a cochon de lail Po’ Boy….pork and dripping ‘slaw.
And now back to Mr Bobby Rush to close off the festival. His regular stage feature of dancing girls with…er…shall we say, lots of curves was evident. He was looking amazing for man about to turn 81. I truly did not appreciate before this evening that he is such a comedian. He is genuinely funny, can get away with some ribald humour even today – the band members don’t seem to have tired of his jokes and routine either, clearly enjoying being on stage with the man. Another feature brought to my attention is the power and dexterity of his harmonica playing.
Some of the songs on show were “Lovin’ A Big Fat Woman”, “Hen Pecked”, a brilliant “Crazy About You” and “Ever Been Mistreated”, working the crowd with consummate skill throughout the set. A fiery version of “Hoochie Coochie Man”, “She’s Nineteen Years Old” and “Night Fishing”. For the finale he responded to a request and did an extended “Sue”.
The MC had to come on stage and close the session, otherwise the man I expect would still be going.
So that was the close of the 2014 Crescent City Blues & BBQ festival, which has a lot going for it – a good mix of New Orleans talent and blues players of all types from other parts of the country. A great setting in a central location, close to the CBD where many hotels are located, near the French Quarter and the Mississippi River. The end-to-end stage format is a good one too, with music on the whole time. If you have a chair, just keep turning it around every hour or so and you won’t miss a thing. The food was great, drinks prices reasonable and the stalls are worthwhile, AND it’s free, thanks to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation. It’s a winner.
So time to return to my hotel and begin the process of packing and getting ready to return to Melbourne, Australia.
My five-week musical journey commenced in Nashville on 15 September when I watched Left Over Salmon at the Ryman Auditorium put on a terrific night with musical guests. It seems like a hell of a long time ago. Now Bobby Rush has become the other bookend, a worthy and wonderful way to complete my time in the USA this time around.
In between these bookends, I’ve been to five music festivals (about sixteen days worth), six States and followed the Blue Ridge Mountain Heritage Music trail. Just off the top of my head, I’ve met (albeit briefly) Jerry Douglas, Cruz Contreras from The Black Lillies, Darrell Scott, Luke Winslow-King, bluegrass performers Becky Buller and IBMA award winner Louisa Branscomb, Lucinda Williams, John Prine, Darden Smith, Bobby Rush and a heap of worthy Australian performers plying their wares in America.
I’m done. Time to go home.
Saturday 18 October 2014 New Orleans (NO) Louisiana (LA)
The Crescent City Blues & BBQ festival at Lafayette Square in New Orleans’ CBD kicks off in full swing today.
Despite a late night last evening, I was keen to get to the Square early and enjoy some of the lesser-known performers and also, while the crowds are low, ensure I get good vantage points.
It was a warm day and I needed to seek shade as much as possible during the day. There was plenty around.
Marc Stone started proceedings at the smaller, Camp St Stage. I have not heard him, but someone I met over the past few days praised him. He was a good act to get things going. Just back from a European tour, he has a nice voice and his band were playing a funky groove, in that New Orleans happy-to-be-alive vibe. He did a couple of covers (Muddy Waters and Bob Dylan) but his set was mainly originals. He has an EP out – “Much Too Much” and Come To Me” were two good songs I remember hearing.
The stalls are lined on one side of the Square and they include stands dedicated to event merchandise, local and beloved radio station WWOZ, and the Louisiana Music Factory has plenty of CDs from festival performers and other New Orleans selections. There’s art, earrings, belts, wooden bow ties, plenty to look at if you want to while away the time. Not that there is any spare time, with music going non-stop from 11am to 8.30pm.
King James and the Special Men were fun, plenty of horn-led rhythm and blues and rock n roll.
Leo “Bud” Welch’s story is an amazing one. From Mississippi, he has had his first recording released at the age of 81. For more information on him and his late starter debut, follow this link. Today it was a pleasure to see a guy who’s finally got some serious recognition after all this time. His blues reflects his origins and environment. True Mississippi blues, which has a distinct sound and sparseness. There was a drummer on stage to add some grunt to the music, but its all about the feel of the guitar and the homespun lyrics delivered by a man who has been around the corner and back and well and truly paid his dues.
Sabougla Voices is the name of his album and, if my memory serves me, he only played one song off that release today – “Mother Loves Her Children” which was the first song. The other songs were sort of introduced but I found it pretty hard to pick up their names with much accuracy – so here goes: “Another Man’s Wife”, “I Don’t Know That Woman Thing” (a stirring, moaning repetitive chant, almost hypnotizing), “I Come To Play This Thing”, “Let The Devil Ride”, “I’ve Been Mistreated”, “Three O’clock In The Morning” and covers of “Mojo Working” (twice – the second time as an encore), a cracking “Sweet Home Chicago”, “Further On Up The Road”, “Put On Your Red Dress” and “My Babe”. I loved his closing remark to the audience – “hope you got something out of the deal”. We did Mr Welch sir. A joy.
Selwyn Birchwood Band delivered some proficient boogie blues – he’s from Tampa, Florida and was the winner of the Blues Foundation’s 2013 International Blues Challenge (band category), as well as the winner of the Albert King Guitarist of the Year award, which is no mean feat with a lot of great guitarists out there. His fluency was evident.
Walter “Wolfman” Washington and the Roadmasters were wonderful. Supreme New Orleans soul funk and sensational players the lot. The sun was setting and the sting from the sun was fighting a losing battle. The St Charles street cars were rattling by, packed with passengers wondering what was happening in the Square. I felt like crying out, get off the car, it’s better here! The Roadmasters comprise three horns, keyboards, drums, base with WWW in command up front, on vocals, rhythm and lead guitars – he plays with an easy, staccato jazz style.
I last saw Joe Louis Walker at Byron Bay’s Bluesfest, I believe it would have been in 2010. “I’m Not Messing Around”, a 1995 Grammy song “Let Your Hair Down”, a gospel number that he performed at his first Jazz Fest set almost thirty years ago – “In The Morning”, followed by a beautiful slow blues ballad with a brilliant guitar solo “I Won’t Do That”. I loved it. To satisfy a request, he did a stirring version of one of all the all-time, uplifting classics “People Get Ready” (Rolling Stone magazine voted it as the twenty-fourth best song of all time). “One Time Round” was an effective blues shuffle. An immensely enjoyable set from a great blues man.
One set to go for the night and the crowd in front of the St Charles stage was pretty big for Los Lobos. I decided to find a park bench where I could hear the music well and have a short rest before working out a good position. Into about the fourth song and a gentleman who I later discovered was called Ray sat next to me and we had a lengthy conversation about a range of music and other matters. He is a New Orleans resident and we spoke about the music scenes in New Orleans and Nashville, the line-ups for Jazz Fest and the Louisiana musical culture outside New Orleans and in particular the Festival International de Louisiane which is a celebration of such music and heritage and is held the same time as the first weekend of Jazz Fest at the end of April.
Time passed very quickly and it was time to catch the end of the Los Lobos set. “What’s Going On?”, Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl”, La Bamba and “Good Lovin'” were exhilarating.
And so day two concluded – quite early really at 8.30. Time for a nightcap and reflect on a beautiful day.
Friday 17 October 2014. New Orleans Louisiana.
This morning my electronic devices needed a fair bit of my attention. The plan for the US cell phone had expired and I had to top up the account for four days to see me through. I finally found a toll-free number (when the plan is expired, you can’t ring nobody!!) and extending proved to be relatively straight forward. Paying the extra $12 required four attempts and a lot of time as I do not have a U.S. credit card. I finally got away from automated services and talked to someone who could help me all the way through to the end. So, phone back on deck.
The laptop doesn’t like the WiFi in my room for some reason, so I took it on down to Starbucks on the next corner so I could do a little on-line work. Finally done, I returned to the hotel, dropped off the laptop and then waited for a while for my cell phone to charge enough for use while I was out for the day and maybe all night, depending on how the day goes. Anyway, all done and out I go!
My hotel Royal St Charles has a street car stop right outside. I thought I might catch it and spend some time in the Garden District and or Audubon Park this afternoon. Today is day one of the Crescent City Blues & BBQ festival, but does not start until 5.30pm so I had plenty of time.
As I waited for the stop for quite a while, the line grew considerably and it was going to be a crowded trip. I decided to walk around the corner to see if I could get on at an earlier stop. Still no sign of a streetcar named anything, so I walked north along Canal St and found the Joy Theatre on the corner of South Rampart, where I was headed tonight.
Ambling around the CBD, I crossed Poydras back on St Charles Ave and discovered Lafayette Square, site of the Crescent City festival (between St Charles and Camp St) and headed down Girod St toward the river, with no serious intention.
There was a mall at St Peter’s and I followed it, almost stopping a couple of times, before finding myself in Hurrah’s Casino. This establishment is the only one of its kind in New Orleans and I think the only land-based casino in Louisiana (all others being on floating vessels). Anyway, this is not where I wanted to be, so I found the exit, crossed the train line and headed toward the Riverwalk shopping outlets, before getting side-tracked by The Crazy Lobster restaurant which has great views of the River.
A long, slow and lazy lunch followed while I watched the traffic up and down the Mississippi.
Returning to my hotel to change, I made it to Lafayette Square in good time to check out some of the stalls. The square is pretty, statues, hedges and massive trees and the St. Charles street cars riding by add to the ambience. There is a stage at the northern and southern end for the festival over the weekend, although only the northern is operating for the two acts tonight.
Little Freddie King was up first and was well dressed for the occasion. I last saw him at the Ponderosa Stomp one year when that event was held between the Jazz and Heritage Festival weekends. This evening, it was a great blues vibe – Luke Winslow-King (who I’d seen the night before) helped out for almost all the set, playing electric slide guitar for the most part.
Time for a bite to eat – smoked bacon gumbo was excellent – I ignored the pork butt for now.
I caught up with my good friend Brian and we shared a table with a couple who had spent time in Melbourne. Small world.
Ana Popovic is Serbian born, but now based in Memphis Tennessee. Nine albums have been released and her stature continues to grow, with a recent Blues Music Award nomination in the ‘Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year’ category. Powerful and beautiful playing, she is commanding on stage.
It’s a fifteen minute walk up Canal St to the Joy Theatre. Tonight’s event is being organised by ‘thisisnola’, an organisation designed to showcase contemporary New Orleans culture. Tonight the headline act is Hurray For The Riff Raff, with supports by The Deslondes and Coyotes. The event is free and is an RSVP-only, sold out show. The Joy Theatre looks to be another restored theatre in the city, just over the street from the Saenger Theatre.
Coyotes are pretty good – indie rock with a pedal steel guitar which is prominent throughout. I really like the pedal steel and the playing was fine, but somehow it didn’t quite fit for me as it seemed to pulling against the rhythm, slowing it down. I would like to hear more of the band though.
The Deslondes are an interesting bunch – their hometown is New Orleans and they are signed to New West Records. According to the band’s Facebook bio, The Deslondes are a “country-soul band, combining elements of early Stax, Sun and Atlantic records with the influence of a more raw, stripped-down sound gleaned off field recordings from Alan Lomax and Mississippi Records catalogue”.
The band is songwriters Sam Doores and Riley Downing, along with bassist Dan Cutler, pedal steel-fiddle player John James and percussionist-vocalist Cameron Snyder. Each musician contributes writing and arrangements, with different members taking the lead at different times. Doores met Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Lee Segara and Yosi Perlstein in New Orleans. Sam Doores & the Tumbleweeds was formed in 2010, also serving as the backing band for Hurray for the Riff Raff. In October 2012, Sam Doores + Riley Downing & the Tumbleweeds released their debut album Holy Cross Blues on the Canadian roots label Dollartone Records.
In early 2013, the band completed its current line up and has since opened for The Lumineers and John Fullbright. Later on that year, the band discovered that it would have to change its name. The Tumbleweeds was already taken and that’s how The Deslondes were born—named after the street in the Holy Cross where the band first wrote, practiced, and recorded; and where Sam Doores currently lives.
Well, the band was terrific, their harmonies and overall sound fresh and immensely enjoyable. Much more country than most bands you will find in New Orleans and there were clearly references to some of their influences – The Band, John Prine and Townes Van Zandt. I am a bit scratchy on the outfit’s recorded output but bought the only CD that was for sale. I will be watching these guys closely, very promising indeed.
The headlining Hurray For The Riff Raff are on a roll at the moment. The band’s new release, Small Town Heroes (2014) is its fourth major release and has been extremely well received, amongst other things garnering an Americana Award nomination this year for Best Emerging Artist. Tonight they performed a number of songs from the new album “The New SF Bay Blues”, “Blue Ridge Mountain” (evoking memories of my recent time there), an upbeat “I Know It’s Wrong (But That’s Alright)”, “Levon’s Dream”, “The Body Electric” (which they performed with gusto at the Americana Awards this September), “Slow Walk”, was another highlight (from the Young Blood Blues album – 2010), a strong statement about drug taking and personal loss, and “Ode To John and Yoko”. Lead singer Alynda Lee Sagara certainly has a voice hard to ignore – she is impressive. Sam Doores guested on “End Of The Line”, “Little Black Star” and the encore tunes “St Roch Blues” and a cover of The Ronettes “Be My Baby” which made everyone leave very happy.
Hurray For The Riff Raff are touring Australia in November 2014 – see here. Thoroughly recommended.
Thursday 16 October 2014 New Orleans Louisiana.
It’s been over three years between my fifth and sixth visits to New Orleans. My five nights here would be devoted to the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival and doing as many new things as I could fit in.
One of my favourite on-line sources of live shows is at http://www.pollstar.com. A check this morning revealed that Americana bands Hurray For The Riff Raff and The Deslondes were playing at The Joy Theatre, which is very close to my hotel and just after the close of the first day of The Crescent City Blues & BBQ. So I organised my ticket first thing in the morning.
A good breakfast spot was found on Canal St, The Ruby Slipper, a short walk from my hotel. The breakfast sandwich was pretty good – the sweet bacon a bit of a surprise though.
Mr friends Sandra and Trish had recommended a coffee place in the Marigny District, just east and south of the French Quarter. The Orange Couch at 2339 Royal St has indeed excellent coffee.I wanted to visit Euclid Records which was in Chartres St, further south in the Bywater District. The weather was warm and my walk was turning into a semi-marathon as it turned out, but I arrived around noon at the record store. There were plenty of New Orleans’ releases and a wider selection on vinyl. Sturgill Simpsons’ Meta Modern Sounds in Country Music continues to elude me, as Euclid only had the vinyl in stock.
Deciding it was too problematic to ship it back home at this late stage of the trip, I passed on the opportunity. I did, however, pick up the new release from Luke Winslow-King – Everlasting Arms, as I was impressed with his debut album.
Straight across from Euclid, there was a large arched walkway across the train track which I followed. On the other side was Crescent Park, easing along the Mississippi River, which I never knew existed. It looked pretty newly constructed and a great area for exercising, with an amazing view of the city and of course the Old Man River. Barges were steadily powering toward the Gulf Of Mexico, some with tug boats and some without. It was easy to stay here a while – there was, however, no shelter and locked gates as I headed (I thought) closer to whence I came.
After retracing my steps, over the bridge and north on Chartres, via an ordinary chicken salad, I arrived back on Frenchmen St, hot and tired. Time for a refreshment and a lengthy stop watching the world go by on this vibrant and, still unspoilt by the influx of visitors, scene. Walking past clubs such as dba, the Blue Nile and Three Muses, I noted who was playing tonight and the next three nights. A look through the Louisiana Music Factory record store followed, my first time since its relocation – it seems a lot bigger and, well, different.
After retracing my steps, I ambled back to the the French Quarter. I was surprised by the level of construction and renovation going on – even many of the quieter streets in the Quarter were not exactly tranquil today.
I had plans to go see Jon Cleary at dba tonight which would mean another sizable trek. I decided on a later afternoon snack (a rich crab and spinach casserole topped with cheese) in case I ran out of time to eat before the show.
Back at the hotel, Royal St Charles for a rest up. A change of clothes and I manged to walk (just, by this stage) to dba’s. Jon Cleary was playing. It was crowded around the bar and no seats. My friend Brian wasn’t there, so I went back on the street and looked at an interesting craft market on the other side. While there, I remembered that Luke Winslow-King was playing the next block up in about ten minutes, so I ventured up there and was given a good spot standing at the bar (tables were only for dinner groups of two or more) while the band set up.
Luke had a band with him tonight – backing vocals and washboard (and wife – Esther Rose), bass (Tennessee Tyler?), and trumpet/piano (Ben Polcer), with Luke on guitar. The band was playing in the front corner of this small restaurant (The Three Muses), with the Polcer sitting in front of one of the double front doors at the entrance. It was cosy. The first few tracks were traditional New Orleans fare, before moving into LWK’s more delta-folk and country blues tunes. Luke is an accomplished slide guitarist and he retains an originality in a world of covers and copiers. A good voice and a winning smile. “Mississippi River Blues”, Everlasting Arms” – the new album’s title track, the delightful slow blues of “Let ’em Talk”, the country-tinged blues of “Some of These Days”, “Cadillac Slim” and “Satisfied Blues” were memorable. Very impressive performance. I look forward to seeing him again at the Crescent City festival this weekend.
I stayed for two of the three sets (sustained by a seat for the second set and delicious fish tacos) and decided (for some reason only known to myself!) to walk home right through the length of Bourbon Street – I hadn’t done that for quite a while. It was busy, noisy, off-putting, exciting, hectic, colourful.