Thereâ€™s a chill in the air, and the sounds of the season are everywhere. Christmas, you ask? No, youâ€™re in New Orleans, and itâ€™s Carnival time â€” Meet Me at Mardi Gras. From every radio, bandstand, bar and coffee shop, the songs associated with Mardi Gras (especially perennial favorites such as Al Johnsonâ€™s â€œCarnival Timeâ€ and the ReBirth Brass Band anthem â€œDo Whatcha Wannaâ€) announce the month of parades and balls that will culminate with the nationâ€™s biggest citywide party.
The 12-song set Meet Me at Mardi Gras, toÂ be released on January 10, 2012, presents many of the best Mardi Gras songs on Rounder Records (a division of Concord Music Group), which, for decades, has been the pre-eminent label recording the music of New Orleans.
Meet Me at Mardi Gras will serve as a suitable soundtrack for any Mardi Gras party. The Soul Rebels strike a funky note with â€œSay Na Hey,â€ a brand new song written by Leo Nocentelli, the guitarist for the crucial New Orleans funk band The Meters. In contrast, several of these songs reach back more than 50 years. Pianist Joe Liggins was not from New Orleans, but his â€œGoinâ€™ Back to New Orleansâ€ has become a standard, covered by both Dr. John and Deacon John. Larry Williamsâ€™s â€œJockamo a.k.a. Iko-Ikoâ€ is a rocking version of the traditional Mardi Gras Indian chant.
Speaking of which, Bo Dollis of the Wild Magnolias (these tribes are African Americans who mask as outrageously plumed â€œIndiansâ€ on Mardi Gras and on Saint Josephâ€™s Day) takes the lead vocal on Professor Longhairâ€™s timeless â€œTipitina.â€ The Professor himself is featured on a 1960s version of his anthem â€œGo to the Mardi Grasâ€ with its signature New Orleans parade beat.
While Cajun music originates in the French-speaking parishes south and west of New Orleans, youâ€™ll often hear it in the Crescent City. â€œMardi Gras Mambo,â€ originally recorded by Art Nevilleâ€™s early band, The Hawkettes, is performed here by Cajun rocker Zachary Richard, while Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys play the minor-key â€œLa Danse de Mardi Gras,â€ which youâ€™ll hear at every Cajun dance at this time of year, for Cajuns have their own Mardi Gras.
For reasons not entirely known (but probably not difficult to decipher!), Jimmy and Jeannie Cheathamâ€™s â€œMeet Me With Your Back Drawers Onâ€ has become a New Orleans standard, especially as performed by vocalist Chuck Carbo, a veteran of the vocal group The Spiders. Rounding out this set are pianist/singer Marcia Ball, with her song based on a Zulu character â€” the Big Shot with his bowler hat and big cigar â€” and the New Orleans Nightcrawlers, who offer a funky twist on the melody of â€œLiâ€™l Liza Jane,â€ long a brass band staple.
In the week before Mardi Gras, the evening parades are family affairs, filled with the aroma of barbeque and the sound of laughter. Chair-topped stepladders are set up along the streets as perches for children to be better positioned to catch the beads thrown from each float. Spectators shout out to kids and cousins in the high-stepping high school marching bands. And you can bet that the music on this album will be emanating from someoneâ€™s front porch, beckoning all to the party.
1. The Soul Rebels â€”Â â€œSay Na Heyâ€
2. Joe Liggins & the HoneydrippersÂ Â â€” â€œGoinâ€™ Back to New Orleansâ€
3. Zachary RichardÂ â€” â€œMardi Gras Mamboâ€
4.Â New Orleans NightcrawlersÂ â€” â€œFunky Lizaâ€
5. Steve Riley & the Mamou PlayboysÂ â€” â€œLa Danse de Mardi Grasâ€
6. LarryÂ WilliamsÂ â€” â€œJockamo a.k.a. Iko-Ikoâ€
7. Al JohnsonÂ â€” â€œCarnival Timeâ€
8. Marcia BallÂ â€” â€œBig Shotâ€
9. Professor LonghairÂ â€œGo to the Mardi Grasâ€
10. ReBirth Brass Band â€”Â â€œDo Whatcha Wanna, Part 3â€
11. Bo Dollis & the Wild Magnolias Â â€” â€œTipitinaâ€ â€“
12. Chuck Carbo Â â€” â€œMeet Me With Your Black Drawers Onâ€