9:30 p.m. Fri., Feb. 6
Mid-City Lanes Rock 'N' Bowl, 4133 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3133; www.rockandbowl.com
10 p.m. Sat., February 7
Krewe du Vieux Ball
Colton School, 2300 St. Claude Ave.; www.kreweduvieux.org
Tickets $25 (Must be Purchased in advance. See Web site for locations.)
When Eric Lindell burst onto the national music scene with his well-regarded 2006 Alligator Records debut Change in the Weather, he was hardly popping out of nowhere. Born in northern California, Lindell had been playing his upbeat bluesy, countrified Southern soul in bar bands from San Francisco to New York since 1993. Becoming a bona fide star on the contemporary blues scene took 13 years of paying dues and honing his craft; overnight sensations take a hell of a long time to happen. But there was another, maybe more important, catalyst for Lindell finding his voice: New Orleans.
Lindell moved to New Orleans in 1999 and lived here on and off until around the time of Hurricane Katrina. He'd been a fan of New Orleans artists like Lee Dorsey and Earl King — and, by association, Allen Toussaint's writing and arranging style. The acclaimed Change in the Weather — which was noted for its elements of gritty, playful New Orleans R&B and swamp pop as well as roots rock and Stax-style soul — must have benefited from all the New Orleans sounds pouring into his ears.
"New Orleans is like one big band," he says. "There's nowhere else like New Orleans, where there's that much playing going on. And the unknown is such a big part of what happens down there ... jamming and all that, and I think that's helped me out a lot as a player and as a songwriter."
The kind of spontaneous moments of brilliance that can come out of New Orleans' low-pressure club gigs and jam sessions — like, say, in front of 10 people at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday — helped shape parts of Lindell's newest album.
"There's a couple songs on the record I just did," he says. "I had recorded a couple of them certain ways before. And the night before we went in the studio to do them, we played at the Circle Bar and Stanton [Moore] just completely flipped his beat inside out. It was completely different. And that night, I was like, 'Oh, we have to record it like that.' It was just inside out and backwards and nothing like the way I'd been playing it for years. So we went in the studio and rerecorded this old song."
Gulf Coast Highway, due out in March, will be Lindell's third full-length project on Alligator. The title refers literally to the road between him — since Katrina, he's lived near Pensacola ("I'm originally from California, so I like to surf") — and New Orleans, where he travels often to play and get a taste of the fertile, collaborative scene that electrified his first two albums. Galactic members Moore and Rob Mercurio, who have played on and off with Lindell since he first came to New Orleans, anchor the rhythm section. Stalwart local sidemen Jimmy Carpenter (who wrote the horn arrangements) and Derek Houston (fresh from a gig on the road with neo-soul singer James Hunter) play sax. Keyboard vet Marc Adams plays piano and B3 organ. According to Lindell, the conversational process that gave birth to the album made it his most satisfying project so far.
"I've yet to make a record where I was really happy with it by the time we finished it," he says. "This one just came out really good."