Heading On Down to the Audubon Zoo with Meschiya Lake & The Little Big Horns

Here in New Orleans music permeates pretty much everything and Audubon Zoo is no exception to that rule.

Immortalized in The Meters’ song They All Ask’d For You  – written by Art Neville, George Porter Jr., Leo Noncentelli, and Zigaboo Modeliste – Audubon Zoo is also famous for its annual philanthropic event the Whitney Zoo-To-Do, a black-tie fundraiser replete with New Orleans’ customary signature blend of great food, great cocktails, and great music.

This year is Zoo-To-Do’s 40th anniversary and as part of the celebrations will feature performances by Walter “Wolfman” Washington and the Roadmasters, Jessie’s Girls, Julio Y Cesar, and Meschiya Lake.

“I am pretty excited to be performing at the zoo,” said Lake. “I adore animals and it is for a good cause. I always enjoy that.”

From a circus performer with the Know Nothing Family Zirkus Zideshow and the End of the World Circus to her current career as one of New Orleans’ best Jazz-singer-with-an-edge, Meschiya Lake is no stranger to the ups and down of showbusiness and, according to Lake, playing at Audubon Zoo definitely falls into the up category, not least because she is excited to bring her four-month-old daughter Saiorse (which means freedom in Gaelic) on her first visit to zoo.

Over the more than ten years that Lake has called New Orleans home, Lake has performed on the streets of the French Quarter, New Orleans music clubs, and even at Celtic Connections, Scotland’s biggest folk music festival held yearly in Glasgow. She was also took home the Big Easy Music Awards “Best Female Performer” of the year for 2010, 2011, and 2012.

In January 2018, she and her band are heading back across the pond to revisit Celtic Connections, something  that, she says, she is very much looking forward to.

“I loved Scotland,” said Lake. “I found Scottish people to be funny and down to earth. And they loved to hang out. Really looking forward to going back.”

“Sometimes when I sit down and think about it, it is pretty nuts,” said Lake. “Ten years ago, I was working all kinds of other jobs with bands on the side. I drove a forklift. I did migrant farm work. I worked in a lot of kitchens. In 2007, I started street performing and now I make my living with music and that is pretty cool, but, you know? But I still like to play on the streets. It is all part of the musical experience and as long as people are having a good time, that is what is important to me. It is always seat of the pants, as we say.”

Zoo-To-Do will take place on Friday, May 4, 2017 at Audubon Zoo, 6500 Magazine St, New Orleans, 70118.

More information about Meschiya Lake and The Little Big Horns is available at http://www.meschiyalake.com/

More information about the Audubon Nature Institute is available at http://audubonnatureinstitute.org/zoo

Greensky Bluegrass In New Orleans Over JazzFest

One of the most wonderful things about the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival  is the depth and breadth of musical talent that it brings to the Crescent City over two glorious weeks of music, food, and fun – and not just out at the Fairgrounds.

This Jazz Fest season, acoustic Bluegrass rock-and-rollers Greensky Bluegrass will bring their uniquely progressive sound to New Orleans on Saturday, May 6, 2017 at the House of Blues.

Since their greenstick days performing at open mikes in their home town of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Greensky Bluegrass has come a long way both in terms of road miles and sound.  One of the hardest working bands in Bluegrass, they are both veterans of life on the road and innovators, some might even say iconoclasts, of traditional Bluegrass music.

While Greensky’s roots remain planted firmly in Americana’s musical traditions, band members – dobro player Anders Beck, banjo player Michael Arlen Beck, guitarist Dave Bruzza, upright bass player Mike Devol, mandolinist Paul Hoffman –  describe Greensky Bluegrass as more rock-and-roll than Bluegrass.

“I learned to play Bluegrass side by side with these guys,” said Mike Devol. “But over the years, we have written a lot of our own material and developed our own sound. Now we still play Bluegrass in the sense that we play Bluegrass instruments, and we also occasionally play Bluegrass sets on stage, but the way we approach our songwriting and our live performances is very much as a rock band. It is a big production, high volume experience.”

Greensky Bluegrass also experiments with electronics during their shows, something that Devol says sets them somewhat apart from not just traditional Bluegrass but also from some of the band’s progressive “Newgrass” contemporaries. Yet, said Devol, themes common to traditional Bluegrass continue to influence and inspire the band’s music.

“Paul Hoffman and David Bruzza are prolific songwriters and they write about what they know,” said Devol. “We are from Michigan, so there’s not many odes to the sweet smoky mountains of Appalachia. But there is a darkness in Bluegrass music – the old murder ballads, being poor, being heartbroken. Our band isn’t bleak but a lot of our songs capture things like the bleakness of the Michigan winter, and the work ethic of blue collar Mid-West – there is a realness to shared hardships and themes of regret, wherever you come from, that just makes for really good songs.”

Mike Devol joined the group in 2004, shortly after the release of the band’s debut album Less Than Supper. But it was the summer of 2006, when Greensky Bluegrass won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition, that “really lit a fire” for the band, according to Devol.

“I think the world of Telluride,” said Devol. “It encompasses what is best in the Bluegrass world we sort of inhabit. There is no venue like it, just the natural beauty and majesty of the place. It also gave us the chance to meet our heroes – Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Gerry Douglas, those guys – as well as virtuoso players like Chris Thile and the Punch Brother. All these people changed Bluegrass by the way they played it, and for them to embrace what we were doing was huge.”

And, after more than a decade, Greensky Bluegrass now finds itself in the position of mentoring young musicians, according to Devol.

“That is such an honor for us,” said Devol. “There is plenty of talent out there who can carry the torch farther than we can, and in a different direction from what we can because they have different ideas about taking the tradition – and respecting it – but also moving it forward, and making it their own.”

Along with Telluride, another city that enjoys a special place in the hearts of Greensky Bluegrass is New Orleans, said Devol.

“New Orleans is delicious,” said Devol. “I love the food, the street culture. I love the little adventures you can go on. I love the late nights in the French Quarter, just coming in and out the music clubs on Frenchmens. There is vibrancy to New Orleans that you don’t predictably see in other American cities. I just hope that we don’t get into too much trouble!”

Greensky Bluegrass will play on Saturday, May, 6, 2017 at the House of Blues. 225 Decatur Street, NO, LA, 70116.

More information about Greensky Bluegrass is available here

The Women’s March New Orleans: 2017 Jazz Funeral For Democracy.

On Saturday January 21, 2017, the day after Donald Trump was sworn in as America’s 45th President, more than a million women took to the streets all over the world in protest as part of The Women’s March.

Here in New Orleans, the streets of the Crescent City were packed with upwards of 10,000 marchers, and I was one of them.

It was a protest march infused with New Orleans’ signature mix, when roused, of fabulous fun and banked fury. After meeting  in Washington Park, thousands of marchers spilled out onto Esplanade Ave, turned on Decatur Street and then onwards into the heart of the French Quarter. The glitz and glitter were on display as protesters made their feelings about America’s latest president known in no uncertain terms.

dump-trumpAs Trump settles in to squat in the Oval Office for as long as he can,  his willing mouthpiece, Kellyanne Conway, told ABC News that she “didn’t see the point” to The Women’s March on Washington, possibly the only thing that I have heard Conway say that I actually believe.

The Women’s March may be the largest protest demonstration in US history, and she doesn’t see the point.

More than 1 million women marching in the US capital and other cities around the world against Trump, her client in the White House, and she doesn’t see the point. 500,000 people marching in Washington alone, and she doesn’t see the point.

However, she does see the point of what she has coined “Alt-facts.”

Alt-facts – a phrase that surely has Orwell spinning in his grave – is just the latest of a series of gambits by this gang of rapacious hucksters to see what they invent, what they can co-opt, and what they can get away with.

But here’s the thing, there are no “Alt-facts”,  just like there is no “Alt-right.” An “Alt-fact” is a lie, the “Alt-right”are Nazis and White Supremacists. Climate change is real. Trump, at his inauguration, is the least popular president in history of the United States. Those crowds were small, and so, apparently, are his hands. These are the facts. Alt-facts are nothing. They don’t exist, except in the feverish minds of Trump and his detestable cabal.silenceConway also very much sees the point in trying, by all means possible, to get people to agree with her lies despite any and all evidence to the contrary, including the evidence of their own eyes. She definitely sees the point in demonizing the press as she deflects real questions while wittering on about whatever agenda she has been paid to push, beating about any and every bush instead of actually answering the question. Her tone drips with condescension  as she regurgitates her stinking mishmash of bile and bullshit, catchphrases and untruths, on radio, on paper, and on TV

“I want good relations with the press,” Conway said on air during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “But it has to be a two-way street. When I see twitter feeds, when I see words that people are using to describe this president, it is incredibly disrespectful to the office.”

The words used to describe Trump and his proposed swampish administration are not disrespectful to the office of President, but they are indicative of the respect that Trump has failed to earn during his acrimonious campaign and will no doubt continue to fail to earn in office as the 45th President.

Respecting  the office of President does not mean that you have respect the man who currently holds that office.  Trump, as a man, has earned the disrespect accorded to him over the course of his seven decades on this planet. I have no doubt that he will continue to earn that disrespect as president. I think he will earn it bigly. Wealth doesn’t equate with worth. While  Trump is wealthy, he is in no way worthy of the office he currently occupies. And he never was. Ask the CIA. Once they get over his shambling speech to them in Virginia, that is. Former CIA Director John Brennan also had a few things to say about the Memorial Wall speech.

Why did Trump choose to come out in his first White House meeting and say things that are not true? It is because Trump is a liar, it is because Sean Spicer is a liar, and it is because Conway is a liar. Why call them liars? They are liars because they lie. And they have kept lying. And no amount of  spouting “Alt-facts” alters that, much as liars would like it to.

“We are going to watch the President does, we are going to watch what the President says,” said George Stephanopoulos. “When the President speaks to the CIA and says things that aren’t true. When his press secretary goes to the podium and repeats things that are not true, is that okay? Isn’t it our responsibility in the press to call them on that? To hold them to account?”

Yes, it is.

rightsLater in the interview with Stephanopoulos, Conway demanded that the press “respect the office and its current occupant.”

The brass neck of this woman is breathtaking, but her idea of a “two-way street”, not just in regards to the press but in regards to anyone who questions her narrative, can be summed up as “ignore reality and repeat after me.”

Just days after Trump’s shoddy ill-attended inauguration,  she and Spicer attempted to ram “Alt-facts” down the throat of the press and populous, and failed. And even if Trump, with a spectacular lack of humility, does officially, via executive order,  declare the day of his inauguration a National Day of Patriotism, that doesn’t change. They failed. 

As  Trump’s version of 2017 gets its jackboots and starts its march into his self-described apocalyptic future, I, and millions of other men and women marched into ours. One in which the line drawn in the shifting sands of Trump’s post-factual world is our vigilance. our willingness to fight back, and our refusal to be silenced. 

What the future holds is anyone’s guess, but the Women’s March happened, millions of people said NO to Trump and his self-serving vision of America in a way that dwarfed  Conway’s lies. It happened. It was real. And it is not going away.

Sorry, Kellyanne. Reality is a bitch that way.

For more of my photos taken at The  Women’s March: New Orleans click here

 

The Celtic Origins of Hallowe’en: Samhuinn in New Orleans

In a city as steeped in the supernatural as New Orleans, it is only natural that Hallowe’en is one of the Crescent City’s most loved celebrations.  Costuming, known as “guising” in Scotland, is part of most celebrations in New Orleans, as are street parties, performance art, and revelry.

Whether attending the annual Witches’ Ball at the Van Benthuysen – Elms Mansion, catching throws at the Krewe Of Boo parade, or getting down at Voodoo Fest, New Orleanians embrace the spirit of Hallowe’en with a customary gusto. But Hallowe’en is not all candy apples and parties. According to historians, its origins date all the way back in time to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhuinn.

For the ancient Celts, each year was measured in a circular, not linear, fashion.  As the great wheel of the year turned, it was celebrated by various equinoxes and solstices and anchored by four main festivals – Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhuinn.

The Celtic year began with Samhuinn, which was celebrated in the last days of October and marked the end of summer and harvest and the beginning of winter. As the days became colder and darker, the boundaries between the world of the living and the world of the dead also grew thin, allowing ghosts and other otherworldly creatures to enter the world of the living.

While the ancient Celts believed these eldritch visitors were not necessarily unwelcome, as time went on, and the traditions changed, people began to use costumes and masks to confuse unwanted supernatural callers, giving rise to the modern tradition of Hallowe’en costumes.

Over the centuries, Samhuinn and other ancient festivals and traditions were absorbed by new religions. With the rise of Christianity across Europe, many traditional Celtic celebrations, such as Samhuinn, were repressed, reinvented, and absorbed into the new Christian traditions and feast days. Yet, even now, many Hallowe’en traditions still reflect their ancient origins.

When Pope Gregory III (731 – 471) expanded the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day (established by Pope Boniface IV in 609 A.D.) to include all saints, he also moved the day of observance to November 1. In 1000 AD., the church declared November 2, All Souls Day, and with November 1 now commonly called All Saints’ Day or All-hallows, the night before – October 31, the traditional night of Samhuinn – became known first as All-hallows Eve, and, eventually, as Hallowe’en.

In Mexico, families visit graveyards on November 1 and 2 (Día de los Inocentes and Día de los Muertos), while according to tradition in New Orleans, families visit the city’s magnificent graveyards on All Saints Day to beautify the graves of lost loved ones. But on Hallowe’en night in Edinburgh, Scotland, the age-old traditions of both Samhuinn and Beltane have been brought back to pagan life by The Beltane Fire Society.

The Society celebrates all four cornerstones of the Celtic year –  its Beltane Festival takes place on Calton Hill on April 30, while Samhuinn is celebrated on the cobble streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town on Hallowe’en night.

“Edinburgh’s Old Town has historic significance as a site of ancient markets and All Hallows fairs, street theatre and performances – especially of the Galoshan plays from which our performance takes its structure,” Tanya Simpson, the online communications coordinator for the Beltane Fire Society told WWOZ.

The Samhuinn performance embodies the overthrowing of Summer by Winter, explained Simpson, portraying a stand-off between the Summer and Winter Kings overseen by the Cailleach, a Celtic representation of the Goddess, or Divine Hag.

“The transformation from Summer to Winter is supported by the energies and interactions of the Summer and Winter courts – through performance, music and dance,” said Simpson “The narrative focuses on this conflict and its resolution, but also focuses on the transition that many aspects of life take during the changing of the seasons.”

Something to think about when enjoying New Orleans’ upcoming Hallowe’en events!

More information about the Beltane Fire Society in available at beltane.org

In the spirit of Samhuinn, a supernatural Music in the Glen will feature Celtic songs of ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night. Don’t look behind you!

Music In The Glen, live from New Orleans  every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11.30 a.m., on WWOZ 90.7 FM at  https://www.wwoz.org/listen/player/

 

 

 

 

Collision 2016

While I have occasionally been called a boozer, a schmoozer I am not. So I admit that when I attended Collision 2106, the massive technology networking conference hosted in New Orleans between the two weekends of Jazz Fest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Collision 2016 brought more than 11,000 entrepreneurs, investors, and media members to our already Jazz Fest crowded city. With so many talented people and so little time, I found it kind of overwhelming, and I am not in the least bit surprised that, according to Collision figures, more than 52,000 cups of coffee were drank during the event.

But like any other event, after your third cup of coffee the thing to do is find your niche, so I gravitated towards the Music Stage, where the conversation was kicked off by WWOZ’s new COO Arthur Cohen and Scott Aiges, long time director of programs for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, whose opening remarks set the stage for various explorations on how technology is changing the face of the music world, as well as the worlds of the various industries that depend on it.

After discussing the essential place of music in the structure of New Orleans, and the importance of making sure that that music is heard all over the world, Cohen and Aiges were followed by speakers Heather Gallagher and Bear Kitty, representatives of that most imaginative of all creative festival communities, Burning Man. Gallagher and Kitty focused their talk on the amazing power of intrinsically community-based creativity, and the importance of creating space in our communities for that creativity to thrive.

As the day went on, other issues discussed by various speakers included modern day music rights, the future of music media, building communities around live events, creative collaborations, and business models for funding music, and how to build an audience in this digital age.

It also saw a demonstration by Remidi CEO and DJ Andrea Baldereschi of the T8, a “wearable musical instrument” in the form of a smooth black glove which allows the wearer to create electronic music by simply tapping, not just a physical surface, but the very air itself. Eight sensors in the glove and a motor sensor bracelet detects the wearer’s hand movements, allowing them, via controls in the bracelet, to scroll through music samples and notes and set specific sounds that play when the hand moves in a certain way.

While a similar product was released by musician Imogen Heap in 2015, according to Remidi’s Chief Technology Officer, the TO is by far a more affordable option for most people. It also allows people with no formal musical training to produce high quality music almost immediately, he went on.

“Anyone can tap a rhythm,” said De May.

Collision also witnessed the merging of technology, bounce music, and twerking as New Orleans’ Queen of Bounce Big Freedia unveiled her new App at the conference.

big Freedia

 

“No one knows what the future of bounce is,” said Big Freedia. “But by using the new technology that is available, the number of social media platforms that you can reach is immense, and I want bounce, and the culture of New Orleans, to reach as many new audiences as they can.“

 

 

Mixing With The Minx

As I walked towards The Marigny Perk to meet Ms. Trixie Minx – the artistic director of New Orleans Burlesque troupe, Fleur de Tease – I never for one second thought that I would fail to recognize her.

But when I arrived at the coffee shop, and looked around for that outrageously blonde, slyly hilarious coquette, Trixie Minx, she was nowhere to be seen. But one wave, and shouted hello later, I found myself sitting down to chat about the art of burlesque, and its place in New Orleans’ history with Trixie’s brunette alter ego.

On her days off, Trixie goes by the name of Alexis. Dressed in a perfectly fitted 1950’s style sleeveless dress – the iridescent stormy grey-green color matched her eyes exactly – Alexis is taller than I expected. Very slender, with her dark brown hair braided into two short pigtails looks she looked like platinum bombshell Trixie’s equally pretty but slightly more subdued sister.

“A lot of times people will miss me,” said Alexis, as, for the briefest second, Trixie’s brilliantly mischievous smile flashes, and sparkles across her face.

“Once I was handing out flyers for a Fleur De Tease show after a Pilates class,” she said. “So I had yoga pants, a tank top, and a hat on. I handed out this flyer to someone who said, ‘Oh, I don’t need one of these, I know Trixie.’ I was looking them right in the eye, and they didn’t recognize me.”

I am a longtime fan of burlesque shows. For me, the louche music, the sly humor, and the sheer beauty of the performers – along with the excuse to dress up and knock back a few cocktails – sing a sparkling siren song that I never really cared to resist.

A good burlesque show – and there are few things sadder, or more uncomfortable to watch, than a bad burlesque show – both fascinates and entertains me. And Ms. Minx’s burlesque dance troupe is nothing if not entertaining.

Fleur De Tease’s changing cast of burlesque dancers are equally fascinating, and include the mysterious Madame Mystere, Roxie Le Rouge, Mamie Dame and Ooops the Clown. While titillation is obviously on the menu, said Alexis, the best burlesque performances successfully dance the line between revealing all, and revealing just enough.

“I think that people’s perception of burlesque is very different from the outside,” said Alexis. “The word ‘burlesque,’ when you break it down, means ‘to joke,’ so the idea behind burlesque is more about humor than stripping. Its roots are tongue-in-cheek, so it is actually more about being silly, and making the audience laugh.”

In terms of both performance and entertainment, explained Alexis, burlesque reveals more about performers’ thought process and imagination than their physical body.

“Strip clubs are all about the flesh,” said Alexis. “Burlesque is all about the performance. It’s a circus show. It’s about breaking the barriers between performer and audience, so everyone can just enjoy a moment together – without being creepy.”

A trained ballerina, the first step Alexis took on her journey towards Trixie Minx started with a broken foot. Unable to continue ballet dancing due to her injury, she dabbled with other dance genres, before being persuaded by a fellow dancer to give burlesque a try.

“My first thought was no, no, no, no, no!” laughed Alexis. “I am a dancer! I don’t do the naked thing! But when I started performing as Trixie Minx, it felt very much like I was two different people – like Clark Kent and Superman. And the more I performed as Trixie, the more the character of Trixie took shape. Everything that I am too shy to say – or too nervous about what other people might think – Trixie has free range to say. And that is such fun.”

New Orleans has long been famous for welcoming art forms that might raise eyebrows in other less adventurous cities. While New Orleans’ casual permissiveness has not changed, the character of what might arguably be the Crescent City’s most infamously permissive street – Bourbon Street – most definitely has.

According to Alexis, in the 1940s and 1950s, both men and women would dress to nines to take in one of the many risqué shows performed nightly in famous clubs such as The Sho Bar or The Casino Royale. Since those halcyon French Quarter days, Bourbon Street has transformed into a neon Golgotha of gentlemen’s clubs, T-shirt shops, and daiquiri shops. In the French Quarter’s roiling mix of old and new, Bourbon Street can still be said to be synonymous in the minds of many with ‘a good time,’ but it can no longer, by any stretch of the imagination, still be thought of as synonymous with glamour.

Or can it?

Reclaiming Bourbon Street’s lost ‘grace and glamour,’ is something that Alexis feels is important, and, to that end, visitors to New Orleans can catch weekly Fleur de Tease performances, starring Trixie Minx in all her blonde glory, at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, 300 Bourbon Street, and the Saint Hotel, 931 Canal Street.

“We rotate the cast at both hotels,” said Alexis. “It’s a little raunchy, but it’s also classy, and there is a nice ‘speakeasy vibe’ to it all. Showing everything would negate the tease. A lot of people dress up to the nines for it. And they are simply dazzling.”

Alexis’s face is once again illuminated by that blonde 10 million gigawatt smile.

“And I think I should also mention,” added Trixie Minx, fluttering her thick eyelashes demurely. “That burlesque dancers are actually born with pasties. You know that you are meant to be a burlesque dancer when you look down, and your boobs are all sparkly.”

More information about Fleur de Tease is available http://www.fleurdetease.com/shows.html

Tara O’Grady’s New Orleans Love Song

During March 2014, Irish Jazz singer Tara O’Grady found herself, as one does, on an Irish Channel parade float, throwing cabbages and potatoes to crowds on Magazine Street while singing Danny Boy.

“I was completely unaware that there was an Irish community in New Orleans,” remembered O’Grady. “Watching all those New Orleanians catching Irish stew vegetables was my introduction to a tradition that I was completely oblivious to – but now am completely enthralled by.”

O’Grady was so enthralled that, on the way back home to New York City, she began writing songs for her fourth album – aptly named Irish Bayou – which mixes American jazz and blues with Celtic story-telling, and a playful sense of shared history..

In 2015,  O’Grady performed in New Orleans as part of the 2014 International Famine Commemoration.

“That was my father’s first visited to New Orleans,” said O’Grady. “He is first generation Irish, and the first live street performer he encountered in New Orleans was a fiddle-player performing traditional Irish tunes. So, in New Orleans, we found a home away from home.”

Born just a few blocks away from Louis Armstrong’s house in New York City, O’Grady grew up surrounded by Irish traditional music, but it was jazz and swing – including the music of New Orleans’ greats like Louis Armstrong and Louis Prima – that stole her heart.

“Louis Armstrong wrote about New Orleans’ Irish Channel in his memoirs,” said O’Grady. “It was a rough and tough town back in the day. During his childhood, he wrote he never entered the Irish Channel because the Irish who lived there were tough – which is saying something because Louis grew up in an area nicknamed “The Battlefield.”

“So, the Irish are part of the gumbo that makes New Orleans a unique American city,” said O’Grady. “In New Orleans, just like in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, Irish flags can be seen on front porches throughout the city.”

According to O’Grady, the intertwined history of New Orleans’ myriad musical traditions, and the common threads that tie its diverse cultures together, were the inspiration for Irish Bayou, her latest album.

“The history of the Irish in New Orleans, from the thousands who died digging the New Basin Canal (Dem Dry Bones) to New Orleanians like Kate Chopin, author of The Awakening (A Rude Awakening –Kate O’Flaherty’s Blues) all inspired ideas for songs about the Irish in New Orleans,” explained O’Grady.

“New Orleans has a multi-cultural atmosphere, so writing Irish Bayou came naturally, with no agenda,” said O’Grady. “And it draws from a number of multitude of genres – jazz, folk, blues, zydeco and rockabilly – all woven together by the theme of the Irish in New Orleans.”

“But,” she laughed. “It was a WWOZ Jazz and Heritage Station DJ after hearing one of my tracks, who told his audience to ‘get yourself a heaping helping of Tara O’Grady.’ And that became a song about muffalatas, beignets, and chocolate pecan pies – A Heaping Helping of My Love!”

More information on Tara O’Grady is available at Tara O’Grady

Gerry O’Beirne’s New Direction

As a singer, songwriter, world-class guitarist, and producer, the Co. Clare native Gerry O’Beirne blends elements of traditional Irish music with contemporary original songs.

A well-known solo artist, O’Beirne has toured with such well-known folk luminaries as Patrick Street, Andy M. Stewart, Kevin Burke, the Waterboys, Midnight Well, and the Sharon Shannon Band.

However, no matter where he goes, said O’Beirne, he always looks forward to “working his way down south towards Louisiana.”

“If you could organize your life the way that you would like it, I would stay in New Orleans for a month,” laughed O’Beirne. “But it doesn’t often work out that way.”

During his long career, O’Beirne’s music has always incorporated dimensions of literature and art. 1874, a track from his 2010 collaboration with fiddler Rosie Shipley, Yesterday I Saw the Earth Beautiful, was inspired by the very first impressionist exhibition that took place in Paris in 1874.

His 2008 album, The Bog Bodies and Other Stories: Music for Guitar, features two haunting pieces inspired by the Irish “bog bodies,” the centuries-dead cadavers found naturally mummified in the peat bogs of Ireland and Eastern Europe.

“Bog bodies are people fashioned by the bog, and processes in the bog, so that they now almost look like works of art themselves,” said O’Beirne. “In my music, I tried to give a heightened sense of them as people, but also, in a funny way, that Mother Earth sort of took them back, and made them into works of art.”

In December 2015, O’Beirne performed  Trèo, a popular bar and art gallery in New Orleans.

In Irish Gaelic, trèo means direction. According to Trèo’s owners Pauline and Stephen Patterson, that meaning is apt when describing both the bar, and the bar’s location on Tulane Avenue. Both, said Pauline Patterson, are “following new directions.”

“Trèo is predominately a bar,” explained Pauline Patterson. “But its direction is the arts, whether that art is food, cocktails, the art of conversation, or music. Our December art events include artists who live outside the States, but have connections with New Orleans. Because Gerry O’Beirne’s music takes Irish music in a new direction, he really suits the theme of the December show.”

O’Beirne is currently working on a new album that highlights life in Dingle, Co. Kerry, by telling tales of famine towers, canny Irish horse trainers, and romantically eccentric locals.

“People often say you can’t speak about music,” said O’Beirne. “But I always think that one art form responds very easily to another. People are extraordinary creations. Cities can be extraordinary creations. And whether you live in New Orleans, New York, or Dingle, your obligations for living there are cultural ones.

Information about upcoming events is available at Trèo

Information about Gerry O’Beirne is available at Gerry O’Beirne

Shaking the Shack with the Legendary Shack Shakers

 

The Legendary Shaker Shakers plan to shake up New Orleans as they take their latest American gothic songs out on the dark roads from Kentucky to California, and back again.

Described by Rolling Stone Magazine as “akin to witnessing a gospel revival or even a snake-handling ceremony,” the Shack Shakers are a musically fearless Deep South mix of punk, rockabilly, country, bluegrass, and gospel.
Bandleader J.D. Wilkes hails from Kentucky, but it was Louisiana’s music, in its many forms, that set him on the road to fronting one of the most original Southern Gothic bands to ever slither and stride out of the bayou, and onto the world stage.

“I lived in Louisiana for six years when I was a kid,” said Wilkes. “Cajun and Zydeco music was what got me into this in the first place. As a little kid, they got into my system. It was uncontrollable, and it all goes back to Louisiana.”

As a child, Wilkes remembers being fascinated by the music of an elderly musician who would play for tourists on the steps of St. Francisville’s old plantations.

“Scott Dunbar had to have been born in the 1800s,” said Wilkes. “So he was this throwback – this real primitive old-school bluesman – kind of on display in this weird exploitative kind of way. But I was glad that I got to see that – because there was power there.”

This musical fascination with the past, and how it relates to the present, fuels Wilkes’ songwriting and permeates the band’s music. While the Legendary Shack Shakers are often described as Southern Gothic, the actual gothic aspects are found in the lyrics of the songs as well as the music, said Wilkes, born as they both are out of the harsh realities of South’s agrarian past, and the shadowy world of Americana folklore.

“The gothic aesthetic is finding beauty in the grotesque,” said Wilkes. “So, lyrically, we are Southern Gothic because I do find beauty in the harsher realities, in the grittier aspect of the South. We are a melting pot, so there is this love-hate, push-pull relationship between the races and the classes. But something fascinating comes out of that. There is beauty that comes out of those grotesque dynamics. There is great art, great music, and great cuisine – more so here than anywhere else in the country – because we are in the thick of it.”

If the Shack Shakers’ latest album, The Southern Surreal, is rooted in old and new Americana folklore, the band’s live performance channels transcendental states more commonly found in religious revivals, pagan ceremonies, and raves.

It is this state of transcendence that fascinates Wilkes, in both a musical and a philosophical sense.

“What you hear in the old musicians from east Kentucky and north Mississippi, Deep South Mississippi, and the Louisiana area – the bluesmen – was trance-inducing,” said Wilkes. “The music was primal – it wasn’t sanitized like it is today. It would transport them and lift them up out of their poverty to a place where they could just exist on a higher plane. We try to conjure that kind of mysticism.”

More information is available at The Legendary Shack Shakers