Malcolm "Papa Mali" Welbourne is the kind of local character that would be genuinely iconic anywhere else. Here in his adopted New Orleans, though, where we historically curate a stellar permanent collection of freaks, oddities and twisted brilliance, he simply fits right in. That's not faint praise, either. The psychedelic swamp sounds on Do Your Thing are New Orleans inside and out, and even if the sound didn't show it, his guest list would. No less of a supporting cast than the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's sousaphone player Kirk Joseph, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, award-collecting pianist Henry Butler, the Golden Eagle Mardi Gras Indians, and the Reverend Goat Carson -- who's equally likely to be seen sweeping up a Frenchmen Street bar in the early morning as playing in one late at night -- appear on the record, which is a magically crafted grimoire of voodoo space blues. Reminiscent of Night Tripper-era Dr. John, Coco Robicheaux or C.C. Adcock's latest gritty ghost-rock effort, Lafayette Marquis (Yep Roc), Do Your Thing runs the gamut from prayerful blues on tracks like the haunting, understated closer "True Religion" to psychedelic, almost Beatles-esqe fuzz guitar on "I Had The Dream." All in all, a powerful, glowing globe of swamp gas.
New Orleans: Rebuild, Restore, Rejoice
(Mardi Gras Records)
Mardi Gras Records has always been dependable for providing reliably local-sounding albums of brass bands, Mardi Gras Indians, traditional jazz and funk and R&B that's seductive enough to a tourist's notion of our city to be deployed by T-shirt shops to lure the visitors inside. Is it a testament to the quality of the Crescent City's native sound that even this kind of party-line palatability is pretty infectious and rocking? Probably. The label also puts out tons of videos and DVDs of local music and festival celebrations. Will Mardi Gras Records ever push the envelope with something fresh, unexpected or risky? Likely not. However, it's a good thing that our old guard and its inheritors are exciting enough with their same old. The record's contributors include legendary standouts like the Rebirth Brass Band, Irma Thomas, Marva Wright, the Soul Rebels Brass Band and Professor Longhair, and all cuts are off previous MGR releases. It includes classic tracks like Thomas' wrenching "Ruler Of My Heart," Big Al Carson's bluesy take on "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out," and second-line stompers like Dejan's Olympia Brass Band doing "It Ain't My Fault." Plus, a portion of the proceeds benefit the New Orleans Musicians' Hurricane Relief Fund. It's the best late Christmas gift possible for out-of-towners.
This EP project, to my knowledge, was intended as a precursor to a full-length album that has yet to see the light of day on the quintessential Ninth Ward weirdo rapper's new label New York Night Train Records, who recently sponsored an appearance by Trach and his producer/partner in crime, D. "Lefty" Parker, at the see-and-be-seen hipster rock event, the annual CMJ music festival in New York City. The pair wound up skipping out on their showcase event at the festival, which was part of a seven-week East Coast tour. It could be argued that listeners didn't miss much, though. Trach is well-known for odd live performance antics in town -- for example, a recent show at One Eyed Jacks that featured stripteasers sipping cocktails and shedding clothes at an onstage bar -- but this record is best listened to quietly at home on headphones. The mix is layered like a Doberge cake and so dense and textured, with Trachiotomy's purposely indistinct lyrics being spit into a soup of clanging sounds, samples and effects, from ringing phones to muffled conversation to snippets of soaring, romantic guitar lines, that it offers a whole new perspective each time you listen. Most fans will prefer to dig the weirdo stage show, but the sounds on their own, for the patient and/or completely bent, offer a whole separate reward.