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Total Riot Records
Strange Roux’s debut EP, Boogie Man, serves up a traditional brew of classic Southern rock, made exotic with a spicy seasoning of modern rock motifs. Lead singer Michelle Cunnigham’s bluesy vocals are more haunting than soothing, giving the songs a sharper tang than more rootsdriven Southern rock. What really sets Strange Roux apart, though, is their masterfully minimalist use of drum and bass. Tony Frickey (drums) and Eric Burgess (bass) give the songs their pulse, holding the beat at a brisk and continual cadence; stripped down, these two seem more fi tting for a pop-punk act than classic rock. Listen to the drumming during the refrain on the title track, and the bass and drum line on "Midnight Dancer" and you’ll hear it. It is this energetic pop simplicity that allows the complexity of the guitar work to shine. Jason Kareores and John Thompson have a bluesy sound that brings to mind Led Zeppelin– this is best exemplifi ed in the track "Yellow Moon Blues," the album’s standout track alongside its eponymous opener. The album’s most fun tune is the rabid hard rocker "Gator Bite," a fast and furious punk-meets-Southern rock rager.
Boogie Man gives a unique update to a classic rock sound. Rather than diluting its essence like many modern rock efforts, the album's pop sensibilities accentuate the distinctiveness of its infl uencing style–even giving it a more danceable, indie-rock feel. A solidly conceived fi rst act from an exciting up-and-comer. –Greg Roques
The Storyville Stringband of New Orleans
My Bayou Home
It’s not an everyday affair to see a string ensemble that defi es the tradition of what a customary string orchestra should look like. But when it came to the talented Seva Venet, creating a local styled nontraditional string band was exactly what he accomplished.
It was a little over a decade ago when Venet, a music teacher and musician, relocated to New Orleans from Los Angeles. After being introduced to New Orleans jazz in his hometown, the professional performer of traditional jazz, Cajun, and zydeco found solace in the laissez-faire city, for it is the birthplace of the music that he loves to create. After being schooled in jazz by the late Tuba Fats and his band, Venet went on to work with several musicians around the city, making his musical mark from second-line parades to the French Quarter Festival and many more.
Along the way, Venet created a couple hit solo albums. Seva Venet began working with his band, the Storyville Stringband of New Orleans releasing their fi rst album in 2010: Seva Venet Presents Live at the Pavilion of Two Sisters. In 2013, the Stringband released My Bayou Home, a classic album with a progressive jazz feel. My Bayou Home is a distinctive album with a makeup that’s not only different in genre and musical style, but the composition of the band and chosen instruments are what create its unconventional ambiance.
The band joins six members on several string instruments, incorporating bass and rhythm guitar with banjo, mandolin and violin. Together with tracks like “Sauvage Blue” and “Serenaders’ Rag,” the Stringband collaborates to provide a wondrous and soothing ragtime-like jazz ensemble that is remarkably well-composed. With 11 original tracks, they put originality into such a traditional genre. –Kimmie Tubre
Community Records is known as the home of former local ska stalwarts Fatter Than Albert, and is regarded as a hub for the New Orleans punk scene. But they also house a softer side. One part of their evolving roster is a singer-songwriter named Dominique LeJeune. The album's title is an appropriate one, since it alternately feels like you are sleeping and then coming out of a deep slumber throughout the songs. “In Reveries” gives the feeling of dreaming or being by a picturesque bayside. With her ethereal whispers and the hypnotic background of the guitar, it gives off Broken Social Scene vibes.
The next track “Penny Please” switches gears. It still has that indie vibe, but this time the guitar is more rustic and gentle, as she sings, “I’ve been waiting here for you while time’s been tearing me in two”. One gets a more Bob Dylan feel here with the intimate and folksy production. Soft chimes come in as LeJeune promises the end of bad luck; it’s like a child’s lullaby told through more mature eyes. Her voice is frail, light, yet confi dent, like something out of a fantasy tale. The beginning tracks really lure in the listener, because right away it’s both comforting, but also active.
With lyrics that mostly seem to deal with reacquainting past relationships, the EP gives off a reassuring vibe of comfort. One can imagine this as the soundtrack to a small-budget movie about a couple facing diffi culties but ultimately staying together. The piece works because it balances its more organic qualities...the simple beat of a guitar or drums...with more expansive sounds (the alternate fading in and out of her voice, a keyboard here or there).
Admittedly, as the work continues, some of the tracks start to bleed together and risk being relegated to mere background/driving music (though “Shoulder” picks up some energy mid-way through), but that’s understandable because this is a fi rst effort. Given time, LeJeune shows promise she can grow within the neo-folk movement that seems to be all the rage in the music underground. Perfect for a rainy day, refl ection, or the auditory form of comfort music. –Collin Breaux
Where The River Meets the Railroad Tracks
Hot Spazz Records
Greg Schatz, aka “Schatzy,” has put out his fourth solo record Where The River Meets the Railroad Tracks, a collection of originals that fi t perfectly with his humble sense of humor and philosophies on life’s exchanges.
Greg Schatz moved from New York to New Orleans in the mid-‘90s, and started off playing upright bass with Jeremy Lyons of the Delta Billy Boys. Having become a downtown music fi gure since then, it’s no surprise to see some of the amazing musicians backing him up. The core band is Schatz on bass, piano, organ and lead vocals. Alex McMurray plays guitars, and Doug Garrison on drums. Other contributors are Helen Gillet on cello and Joe Cabral on baritone saxophone, among others, helping Schatz give the songs a New Orleans sound.
Lyrically, the record has a playful sentiment whether talking about his baby’s love or preferring NOLA to New York... or maybe it’s the other way around. I liked “Lip Service,” that has a slow and easy harmonica solo with vocals and rhythm to match. “Mama Gonna School You” is another great song where the bass tends to dominate with playful piano lines that get stuck in your head.
There’s a lot of New Orleans horn playing on the record that compliments the already warm and cozy sway of Schatz’s sentiment through his piano and voice. Get a copy for your stereo, make a mimosa, and let these 12 tracks put you in a great mood. –Brian Serpas
Word of Mouth Recording
The band’s moniker says it all: the horns are the focus of Burnin’!. The sextet that comprises Diablo’s Horns includes trombones by Charlie Halloran and Colin Myers, sax by Jason Mingledorff, trumpet by Kevin Clark, and tuba by Tim Stambaugh (who also arranged all of the tunes on the album), with some funky guitar chords, a woozy croon by Dave James, and beats by Cale Pellick.
The album was released just before the end-of-the-world date in December, and begins with the aptly titled opener 12.21.12. Dave sings, “Let’s party like it 12, 21, 12,” as Kevin Clark begins his trumpet solo through what sounds like a guitar pedal, which makes for a unique sound. Dave then poses a question about the Saints playing the Mayans on an ancient battlefi eld, and if Payton would still be suspended in that instance. The cover version of King Floyd’s “Groove Me” is a bit more rock n’ roll with an edgier guitar riff throughout. A horn fi lls in for the vocals in the very beginning, but sounds just as human as any singer.
Burnin’! also goes a few places I never expected, like a line about farting in public in “Mr. Skin,” but it doesn’t go so far off that it would be off-putting to listeners. Diablo’s Horns is not evil, but does sound sinfully good. –Emily Hingle
Snoball Effect, the debut LP from emcee and producer Brando, coming to NOLA via Virginia in recent years, is a 17-track collection of what you might expect from a young man whose default decade of musical impression started in the new millennium: all the fun tricks that come from studio gear being used by professionals, along with good beats and sonic hypnosis. The opening track is run-of-the-mill trash-talking we’ve heard since the founding fathers of hardcore rap, Ice-T and NWA, and in that sense has you waiting to get to the point and then wondering how familiar Brando actually is with a handgun and misogyny. It gets to the point right away on track 2, “Writing on the Wall,” which seems to be a song about, well, his debut as an emcee. The tracks continue to fl ow, and again you aren’t waiting because track 3 weaves a path for a record full of tight beats, exotic sounds possibly borrowed from movies made in the East, and great vocal delivery. Brando is a co-producer for All Work/ No Play, and is currently working on another record titled The Labor Union coming out this year. You can fi nd him on Facebook for performances and CD purchases. –Brian Serpas
Moths to the Flame
Prytania Massive Songs
You know an album rocks when your fi rst thought is "I HAVE to see these guys live." Prytania's sophomore effort is well-polished, expertly produced, and a fi erce rock effort from start to fi nish.
One of the things that sets it apart is the subtle and effective use of electronic sampling. It never, however, takes center stage or serves as a substitute for the band's hard rock performance. Rather, it provides a moody, atmospheric backdrop, further darkening and directing attention to the player's musicianship—especially notable on the pulsating backbeat during the opener, "Dead Inside," and the anxious-yet-groovy techno-sway on "What Lies Beneath". Frontman Wayne Miller really steps up on this album. He constantly switches up his vocal harmonies—check out the laid-back refrain on the funky "Last Laugh"—complemented by vivid, haunting lyrics (particularly "What Lies Beneath" and "Hurt Like New," the album's stand out track). Closing things out is "Saint," a violent, passionate track that concludes the record with the same fuming fury that kicked off the opening track.
Fans of modern rock acts like Breaking Benjamin, 30 Seconds to Mars and the Deftones will fi nd much to enjoy from Moths to the Flame. If you're craving more and want to see these guys rock live, check them out at Hangar 13 in Mid-City on April 13. –Greg Roques
Fields Are Burning
The photograph on the cover of Fields Are Burning foretells the sound of the music within: rusted doorways on a safe hold very valuable materials on the inside. Adam Pearce begins the album on “Take It Down” by soulfully crooning in his raspy, rock voice. He also plays a soft tune on his guitar before the music blasts into a rocking wall of sound and a heavy beat. “Throw it Away” has some rollicking guitar riffs for the chorus, but recedes during the verses to a minimum where just the vocals and drums by Johnny Sheets play; these guys defi nitely know how to make their music ebb and fl ow without loss of intensity.
Black Magnolia’s rock music never crosses into the realm of abrasiveness or offensiveness, however, so it will pose no barriers to anyone. For example, while some songs like “Apocalypse” have a darker tone, others like “Show Me Who You Are” and “The Fighters” are hopeful and upbeat.
There are many guests along on Fields Are Burning including Spencer Lemoine, Randy Jackson, and George Hollishead, and even the album’s producer Matt Beeson performs guitar on “Show Me Who You Are” and “You Are The One,” as well as being the writer of and performing on “Vampyre”.
Beeson and the production team did an amazing job with Fields Are Burning: the sound is vibrant and every instrument and vocalist during moments of harmony can be heard clearly. Black Magnolia has the talent, ingenuity, and technical team to make a big noise. –Emily Hingle
60 Yr. Old Rapper
It all started with a viral YouTube video that spiraled itself into more than what was expected. What began as a comical display of a 60-year-old rapper by the name of Unc Imo has become something more than just a silly viral rap project. Though it is hard to tell by his debut single, “Bad Knee,” Unc Imo of the New Orleans area has a message behind his music. On his six-track album, 60 Yr. Old Rapper, he displays a diverse array of track,s from a pop-like Saints' anthem named “Go Nuts,” to more political songs like “The Prayer”. Like the album, Unc Imo has also become pretty infl uential in his community. He is not shy on vocalizing his view on political matters and city issues. From his music to simply listening to him speak, there is a serious power in the message behind the music. The New Orleans-born rapper is out to show proof that you are never too old to follow your dreams. And while it is a fun-loving album from an artist that truly just wants to make the world smile, 60 Yr. Old Rapper, for Unc Imo, is a way to bring people together and to show everyone that anything is possible. –Kimmie Tubre