As the urban legend balloon busters work to confirm or deny post-Katrina horror stories from New Orleans, let us take a good look or, in this case, listen, to the New Orleans too which we are bound by love of good music, good food, productive cultural intersections and happy acceptance of hedonism. The mortar in any comeback is memory. Let us look for happy reminiscences of the Crescent City with which to begin restoration.
Yellow Dog Records just released as good and authentic a collection of new New Orleans music as one could want, recorded last May in the Bywater District, rooftops and drowned car tops of which we’ve all seen a sad documentary quantity. These fourteen songs, five M. Flower originals and nine known numbers from yesteryear arranged by Ms. Flower with that perpetual freshness that always marks New Orleans music, do a good job of taking the listener down there.
Though possessed of the relaxed humor and innate, funky rumba rhythm of New Orleans music, Mary Flower sounds like a serious student of the music, too. Her guitar, lap-slide guitar and vocals are a little too dead on, as if authentic because she’s researched and practiced and researched some more, but that’s okay, as her familiarity with the sound she seeks here, whether it comes from nature or nurture, has let her put together a great tune list.
“Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave to Me,” probably best known from the Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band treatment three plus decades ago and far different here, begins a set that remains syncopated and lively for the length of the CD, even through E.Y. Harburg’s “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime.” The jangle piano bounces off the scraping, heavy strings of her guitar, recorded way out in front of the horns, organ, bass, drums, washboard and/or accordion that all contribute highly individualistic facets to the songs.
Just the way it’s supposed to be in New Orleans. Just the way it’s been. Just the way we want it again.