The Radiators' first studio album in six years is a welcome sprinkling of bread on the water to the faithful Fishheads who've been loyal to their favorite good-time roots-rockers for more than a quarter-century. It was recorded early this year at Piety Street Studios in New Orleans after the band got their ducks in a row, not only from Katrina, but from several years of switching bookers and managers in the midst of their normally heavy touring schedule. (The band now handles its own management and booking.) With Dreaming Out Loud, you're not getting this New Orleans institution's take on the storm, which is kind of a relief. As it turns out, every track on the record is four years old or more, with some having had their genesis more than a decade ago. The resulting sound is one of songs whose kinks have been worked out from months or years of live performances. The band inhabits the tracks on Dreaming Out Loud like you'd sit in a favorite chair -- nothing but comfort and ease, which makes for a confident, assured album in which you can literally hear the band having fun. It's far preferable to hear that New Orleans' best bar band maintains and abides by the best barroom blues-rock fashion than to hear yet another reaction to the storm. The Radiators' new album is another welcome sign that things are starting to look up. -- Alison Fensterstock
Wail And Ride
Grayson Capps won my ear with his first full-length solo album, 2004's If You Knew My Mind. It was an almost achingly minimalist gallery of roots and blues sketches. From his previous bands Stavin' Chain and the Stumpknockers, New Orleans barflies know Capps can churn out some full-on roadhouse slide-guitar stompers. As a solo performer, though, and especially with Wail and Ride, he's turning out to be a craftsman on par with artists like Randy Newman in his earlier years. He has a similar talent for distilling country and rhythm and blues sounds into uncanny snapshots of the characters in his particular orbit, which in this case is, New Orleans' musical bohemia.
Wail and Ride has some throwaways; the post-Katrina feel-good track "New Orleans Waltz" sounds like a Ramblin' Jack Elliot B-side, a coffeehouse folk tune that will give locals a warm feeling but not stand on its own for listeners outside the semi-sunken Crescent City. But Capps' voice can almost redeem it -- it's a gem, low-pitched, whiskey-rough and has the spot-on storytelling timing of your favorite cool drunk uncle. The two-step "Poison" would fill the floor in any Louisiana honky-tonk. The addition of some sick, sinister Wurlitzer on "Ed Lee" turns it into a creepy-crawler worthy of Warner/Reprise-era Tom Waits. "Give It To Me" is a '20s-style shuffle that's only missing the washboard. "Junkmen" is sensual, sad and twangy like some of Kris Kristofferson's best work. Capps is showing he can stand next to some of the most interesting odd-men-out in the annals of singer-songwriterdom without inviting accusations of being a copycat. -- Fensterstock
Original Pin Stripe Brass Band
I Wanna Go Back To New Orleans
Sometimes the simplest things are the most meaningful and profound. They can be simple things like the opening tuba lines on the first track of the new Original Pin Stripe Brass Band CD as it leads into the vocal riffs before Herbert McCarver III defiantly sings, "I Wanna Go Back To New Orleans." It's simple, but so deep given the current state of the post-apocalyptic Crescent City. As the band continues funking it up over great solos, some Rebirth-like parts, and the lyrics that echo Leiber and Stoller's "Kansas City," McCarver lists the many reasons he needs to come back and that he might return via bus, train, car or even feet. This is something that touches everyone while the second-line groove makes it impossible not to dance.
The rest of the CD covers all the bases of New Orleans street music. The band comes out of the title track with Fats Domino's thematically similar "I'm Walkin'." They play Mardi Gras Indian music ("Ooh Na Nay"), traditional brass band ("E Flat Blues/Big Legged Woman"), rhythm and blues ("Stand By Me," dedicated to all the victims of Katrina coming back strong) and Mardi Gras music ("Big Chief"). They do all of this with the crisp rolling snare, authoritative vocals, and fat horn parts that the Pin Stripes made famous several years ago with their version of the classic "I Ate Up the Apple Tree." The music on "I Wanna Go Back To New Orleans" has that good-time feel, but the Pin Stripes couple it with a resilient spirit that has marked the grassroots recovery of many musicians and bands. It's a reflection on these times that will last until better times are upon us. -- David Kunian
The New Orleans Bingo! Show
The exclamation that is Bingo! has been running on maximum power lately. After rarely touring for the many years that the act has been together, ringleader (ringmaster?) Clint Maedgen, along with supporting cast-slash-henchmen Ronnie Numbers and Mr. The Turk joined a loosened-up Preservation Hall Jazz Band for several months' worth of international dates since this spring, and still found time to release this 17-track opus.
For the unaware, Bingo! is not just a band. Bingo! is a show, a gang, and a potential entire arts movement. Bingo! incorporates sirens, bullhorns, intimidation, confusion, sharp suits, sunglasses, fezzes and all the best aspects of sleaze, crime, luck, cabaret, carnival and romance. The important thing here is that they're capable of evoking the most important parts of the multisensory experience of a Bingo! show, which includes aggressive light, noise, film screenings and actual bingo games on a record.
Soft Emergencies is incredibly diverse. The nasty, distorted grit of "Looking For That Lucky Five," with its clanging found percussion sounds and fuzzy organ is a junkyard creeper that gives way to Maedgen's angel-sweet vocals and smooth saxophone on the whimsical, romantic "Little Kitten." "Requiem #9" is a Kurt Weill-influenced cabaret tale that seems to be about pirates, and "She Loves A Circus" is a shivery, autumnal track with a dizzy, drunken calliope sound. Soft Emergencies should go with the Mardi Gras beads and pralines in your next New Orleans care package to someone far away; it's a perfect snapshot of New Orleans' most original band. -- Fensterstock