Various Artists, Meet Me At Mardi Gras

Published on January 10th, 2012 in: Culture Shock, Current Faves, Holidays, Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Melissa B.

mardi gras cover

How fortunate the New Orleanians are: Once Christmas and New Year’s are over, they get to move straight into Carnival season. Parades, food, music, revelry, and the finest of these things, I’d wager, is the music.

I’ve often wondered how New Orleans can have so many obscenely talented, homegrown musicians. Is it the food, the humidity, the heritage, the proximity to water? Is there a great funk reservoir that all of the drinking water comes from? Do they put it in babies’ bottles at birth? Whatever causes it, there is a bumper crop of amazing New Orleans music out there and Meet Me At Mardi Gras puts it all in one convenient disc, making a party in your living room, or car, or ears. What have you.

Meet Me At Mardi Gras has a great mix of standards, and some not so standards. Though the cover art is a bit off-putting (it looks like Ed Gein made a mask), the contents within are mostly gold. Crisp horn sections, like on the Soul Rebels “Say Na Hey,” set the tone and bring the funk. (Typically, New Orleans Mardi Gras Krewes do wear those creepy clear plastic face masks.—Ed.)

An early standout track is “Goin’ Back To New Orleans” by Joe Liggins and the Honeydrippers. I don’t know if it is the slight crackle (as if it’s played on a turntable), the absolutely sublime saxophone solo, or possibly the lyrics about food that makes it so wonderful, but it made me yearn for king cake in the worst way.

Things ramp up with New Orleans Nightcrawlers ripping “Funky Liza.” “L’il Liza Jane” is a standard for brass bands as well as bluegrass bands, and this version, about a “girl in New Orleans who dances all night in her tight blue jeans” is blistering. The soaring, tight horn section propels this one along with amazing virtuosity.

Until last season’s Treme, I didn’t know that Cajun Mardi Gras was a thing. It seems to be an earthier, less corporeal tradition, taking place in the rural areas. “La Danse De Mardi Gras” is a traditional song, the theme of Cajun Mardi Gras. Steve Riley’s version of this minor key beauty is gorgeous. The fiddles slip and slide past each other, leaving a trail of goosebumps in their wake.

Big Chief Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias take on Professor Longhair’s perennial favorite “Tipitina” and make it their own. Bo Dollis has a wonderful, raw, distinctive voice, and while I may have five versions of “Tipitina” on my iPod, this is my second favorite (no one does it better than the Professor himself).

Speaking of Professor Longhair, the big daddy checks in with a rumbling, shuffling version of “Go To The Mardi Gras.” What is there to say about him that hasn’t been said? There’s the whistled refrain (good gravy, that’s some virtuoso whistling), the lyrics that encapsulate Mardi Gras (the Zulu King, and nary a lyric about ladies lifting their shirts). If you didn’t already own this song in some form, it is worth the price of the album for this one alone.

Other standout tracks feature the Rebirth Brass Band doing what they do—playing funky, tight, and loud on “Do Whatcha Wanna Do”—and doing it so well. Another favorite is Larry Williams’ “tear the top off this mother” take of the Mardi Gras Indian chant, “Jockamo a.k.a. Iko Iko.” Chuck Carbo’s “Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On” is a sly number.

There are clunkers. Despite her massive voice, Marcia Ball’s “Big Shot” feels like a side trip into ‘70s easy listening. And apparently I hate “Mardi Gras Mambo” no matter who does it.

Despite these, Meet Me At Mardi Gras is a festive, rollicking good time of a record and an instant mood setter.

Meet Me At Mardi Gras was released by Rounder Records on January 10. The 2012 Carnival season is underway; for a complete list of parades and routes, check out NOLA.com.

One Response to “Various Artists, Meet Me At Mardi Gras


  1. Popshifter:
    January 10th, 2012 at 11:39 am

    I also hate “Mardi Gras Mambo.” You’re not alone!

    LLM

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