Bobby Rush, a preacher's son from speck-on-the-map Homer, La., has been treading the stages of the juke-joint circuit for half a century and built a reputation for a funky, electric grown-folks' soul show complete with dirty jokes and saucy backup dancers. Raw takes a different tack, with Rush solo on acoustic guitar and harmonica, showcasing warm vocals that evoke Mississippi John Hurt's soothing simplicity. With a few covers " an unhurried 'Bony Moronie," Sonny Boy Williamson's 'School Girl" and Muddy Waters' 'Howlin' Wolf," plus 10 original tracks that hit the familiar touchstones of the genre (the women who do him wrong and the women who do him right), Raw is hardly revelatory, but it's blues comfort food at its finest. Full of folksy funk and comforting, gentle blues, Raw is as authentic as moonshine and simple and satisfying as a plate of red beans with a biscuit on the side.
Hot Wax and Whiskey
Ninth Ward chanteuse Linnzi Zaorski is a familiar and beguiling sight, holding down the stage anywhere cocktails are served. With vintage mic and dresses, and a gardenia tucked into her platinum locks, it's hard to separate her live appeal from the supper-club set dressing aspect. Live, she turns a barroom into a speakeasy with a wink and a whisper. On the record, her light, girlish voice and Delta Royale band turn out standards with aplomb. It's tough to make a mark on swinging standards like 'Bei Meir Bist Du Schoen," and on emotionally drenched tracks like 'Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans" and Billie Holiday's aching 'Good Morning Heartache," but Zaorski, along with other familiar downtown faces like Rob Wagner on sax and the fresh touch of Washboard Chaz on a few tracks " did Glenn Miller have a washboard? " does admirably. Sweet and a little spicy, Zaorski adds a kick to a familiar recipe, but for the full effect, catch her after dark with a drink in your hand.
With the first retrospective of her formidable catalog, folk/punk maverick (and occasional New Orleanian) Ani DiFranco shows us just how much she's grown since her teenaged, crew-cut days hitting the New York coffeehouse circuit with her acoustic. Personally, politically and musically, she's remained nearly impossible to pin down " left-wing lesbian folk icon? Dreadlocked prog-rocker mom? With selections from 17 years of recording on Canon, at least the latter falls into place. From the spare, confessional and confrontational folk of her first, intimate albums to the production-heavy spoken-word sound pastiches of her Katrina-interrupted latest, Millennium Theater, Canon (which also includes new recordings of five tracks, including the vintage favorite 'Both Hands"), a journey starts to take shape, and so does a throughline " a conscious, creative, volatile and thoroughly original voice who does it her way.
James "12" Andrews
People Get Ready Now
Tremé superstar James Andrews gathered a couple dozen friends from all over town to put together this quintessentially New Orleans cornucopia of brass, funk and soul strut " including Dr. John, Ryan Scully, Big Chief Alfred Doucet, June Yamagishi on guitar and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's Roger Lewis on sax. The kickoff track (a rhetorical post-Katrina query called 'One, Two, What You Gonna Do") is a slow-burning New Orleans funk throwdown with Charmaine Neville and Margie Perez shining on backup vocals and lyrics that range from poignant ('so much happening since the levees came down/ they put the FEMA trailers on the Indian ground") to silly ('they got the Mexican workers punching the clocks"). Their slow, sloppy 'Saints" also shines, swaggering with brassy, syncopated second-line style. It's familiar sounding in the best possible way. If albums like these are getting made in town again, things are getting back to normal.