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Tom McDermott and Evan Christopher

Almost Native: Music From New Orleans & Beyond

(Self-released)

The duo of Tom McDermott and Evan Christopher play a wide range of French, Caribbean and Gulf Coast music with verve and elegance, yet they also can dip into the gutter and mess with low-down music. Their sound could feel at home at either Carnegie Hall or New Orleans' historic Funky Butt Hall. Their latest album, Almost Native: Music From New Orleans & Beyond, includes compositions with both elegant and grittier sounds as well as jazz, pre-jazz marches, musettes, and choros. "Waltz for All Souls" features a slow and stately progression, while "Heavy Henry" (a song made famous by the New Orleans Nightcrawlers) has McDermott voicing dense funk chords before Christopher reaches the upper ranges of the clarinet — without losing his lustrous tone. Both musicians have a sense of drama and space, and they don't rush songs. This is evident in the mystery of McDermott's "Spooky Blues (for Booker)," which begins with enigmatic piano and eventually alternates that with more transparent interludes. They don't play tentatively, and "The Don't-Mess-With-My Two-Step" and "March of the Pony Girls" have straight-forward energy with surprise stops and turns. This energy and sophistication, combined with their great affection for the music, allows them to take traditional songs and make them contemporary and joyous. — David Kunian



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Dave Jordan

These Old Boots

(Dashiki)

There is a world-weariness to Dave Jordan's voice. He sings as if he's tired of experiencing the sentiments he's expressing. Unlike his work in the funk/jam band Juice, the songs on his first solo record, These Old Boots, are low-key and understated. The tunes have steady beats built around acoustic guitar, pedal steel, violin and piano, and there is a slight country feel to the rock 'n' roll. They add weight to his tales of a soul unmoored in New Orleans. There are descriptions of stumbling from bar to bar in "I Ain't Ready (For the Night to End)" and relationships fallen apart with "a silence we can't get past" in "One of Us Loses." With titles like "Ain't My Home," "Darkness," "Oblivion" and "Something's Gotta Give," both the sound and lyrics are pessimistic at best. But he writes and sings about hard times with conviction and avoids sinking into cliches. The lack of variety in texture and tempo, however, bogs down the album as a whole. A good rave-up/kiss-off tune would help break up a mood that can push the listener from contemplative to morose. Not every New Orleans record needs to be a party record, however, and, for some of those introspective and meaningful moments Jordan has written a great soundtrack. — Kunian

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