Saturday 18 October 2014 New Orleans (NO) Louisiana (LA)
The Crescent City Blues & BBQ festival at Lafayette Square in New Orleans’ CBD kicks off in full swing today.
Despite a late night last evening, I was keen to get to the Square early and enjoy some of the lesser-known performers and also, while the crowds are low, ensure I get good vantage points.
It was a warm day and I needed to seek shade as much as possible during the day. There was plenty around.
Marc Stone started proceedings at the smaller, Camp St Stage. I have not heard him, but someone I met over the past few days praised him. He was a good act to get things going. Just back from a European tour, he has a nice voice and his band were playing a funky groove, in that New Orleans happy-to-be-alive vibe. He did a couple of covers (Muddy Waters and Bob Dylan) but his set was mainly originals. He has an EP out – “Much Too Much” and Come To Me” were two good songs I remember hearing.
The stalls are lined on one side of the Square and they include stands dedicated to event merchandise, local and beloved radio station WWOZ, and the Louisiana Music Factory has plenty of CDs from festival performers and other New Orleans selections. There’s art, earrings, belts, wooden bow ties, plenty to look at if you want to while away the time. Not that there is any spare time, with music going non-stop from 11am to 8.30pm.
King James and the Special Men were fun, plenty of horn-led rhythm and blues and rock n roll.
Leo “Bud” Welch’s story is an amazing one. From Mississippi, he has had his first recording released at the age of 81. For more information on him and his late starter debut, follow this link. Today it was a pleasure to see a guy who’s finally got some serious recognition after all this time. His blues reflects his origins and environment. True Mississippi blues, which has a distinct sound and sparseness. There was a drummer on stage to add some grunt to the music, but its all about the feel of the guitar and the homespun lyrics delivered by a man who has been around the corner and back and well and truly paid his dues.
Sabougla Voices is the name of his album and, if my memory serves me, he only played one song off that release today – “Mother Loves Her Children” which was the first song. The other songs were sort of introduced but I found it pretty hard to pick up their names with much accuracy – so here goes: “Another Man’s Wife”, “I Don’t Know That Woman Thing” (a stirring, moaning repetitive chant, almost hypnotizing), “I Come To Play This Thing”, “Let The Devil Ride”, “I’ve Been Mistreated”, “Three O’clock In The Morning” and covers of “Mojo Working” (twice – the second time as an encore), a cracking “Sweet Home Chicago”, “Further On Up The Road”, “Put On Your Red Dress” and “My Babe”. I loved his closing remark to the audience – “hope you got something out of the deal”. We did Mr Welch sir. A joy.
Selwyn Birchwood Band delivered some proficient boogie blues – he’s from Tampa, Florida and was the winner of the Blues Foundation’s 2013 International Blues Challenge (band category), as well as the winner of the Albert King Guitarist of the Year award, which is no mean feat with a lot of great guitarists out there. His fluency was evident.
Walter “Wolfman” Washington and the Roadmasters were wonderful. Supreme New Orleans soul funk and sensational players the lot. The sun was setting and the sting from the sun was fighting a losing battle. The St Charles street cars were rattling by, packed with passengers wondering what was happening in the Square. I felt like crying out, get off the car, it’s better here! The Roadmasters comprise three horns, keyboards, drums, base with WWW in command up front, on vocals, rhythm and lead guitars – he plays with an easy, staccato jazz style.
I last saw Joe Louis Walker at Byron Bay’s Bluesfest, I believe it would have been in 2010. “I’m Not Messing Around”, a 1995 Grammy song “Let Your Hair Down”, a gospel number that he performed at his first Jazz Fest set almost thirty years ago – “In The Morning”, followed by a beautiful slow blues ballad with a brilliant guitar solo “I Won’t Do That”. I loved it. To satisfy a request, he did a stirring version of one of all the all-time, uplifting classics “People Get Ready” (Rolling Stone magazine voted it as the twenty-fourth best song of all time). “One Time Round” was an effective blues shuffle. An immensely enjoyable set from a great blues man.
One set to go for the night and the crowd in front of the St Charles stage was pretty big for Los Lobos. I decided to find a park bench where I could hear the music well and have a short rest before working out a good position. Into about the fourth song and a gentleman who I later discovered was called Ray sat next to me and we had a lengthy conversation about a range of music and other matters. He is a New Orleans resident and we spoke about the music scenes in New Orleans and Nashville, the line-ups for Jazz Fest and the Louisiana musical culture outside New Orleans and in particular the Festival International de Louisiane which is a celebration of such music and heritage and is held the same time as the first weekend of Jazz Fest at the end of April.
Time passed very quickly and it was time to catch the end of the Los Lobos set. “What’s Going On?”, Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl”, La Bamba and “Good Lovin'” were exhilarating.
And so day two concluded – quite early really at 8.30. Time for a nightcap and reflect on a beautiful day.