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Various Artists – Meet Me At Mardi Gras

Rounder Records

12 tracks – 45.16 minutes

Just in time for Mardi Gras Rounder have dipped into their archives to put together an interesting selection of New Orleans and related artists. If you want a blues and roots flavoured soundtrack to your Mardi Gras party this CD is perfect. The material ranges across the decades, with NO stalwarts such as Professor Longhair and Rebirth Brass Band sitting alongside more contemporary acts such as Marcia Ball and Steve Riley and the Mamou Players.

In truth every track evokes the Crescent City and carnival time, but perhaps for blues fans Professor Longhair’s timeless “Tipitina” is the tune that best expresses our fascination with New Orleans. The version on this compilation is by Bo Dollis And The Wild Magnolias and it’s a good one, the classic shuffling beat enhanced by a full band of trumpets, saxes and trombones. The Professor himself appears on a 60’s version of “Go To The Mardi Gras”, pounding drums setting a frantic pace for his piano and vocal. Rock and roller Larry Williams tackles another classic “Iko-Iko” in a sweet and short version that clocks in at just 1.32. In contrast The New Orleans Nightcrawlers’ funky version of brass band staple “Lil’ Liza Jane” (here retitled “Funky Liza”) is the longest track at over seven minutes. Talking of marching bands and NO carnival ‘crews’, Marcia Ball’s “Big Shot” is also based on a Zulu character with bowler hat and big cigar and is a favourite from her “Blue House” CD in the 90’s.

The CD opens with a contemporary tune in The Meters’ Leo Nocentelli’s “Say Na Hey”, here performed by The Soul Rebels in a funky style with great horns punching out the main musical theme and the strong vocal telling us all about the friendships to be made at carnival time. It seemed to me that this track was placed first to show that NO music is not stuck in a timewarp but is evolving all the time, as demonstrated by the wild guitar in the middle section here. The CD closes with Chuck Carbo’s version of “Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On”, a song that, for fairly obvious reasons, also evokes that party spirit!

Overall this compilation ticks a lot of boxes. As is always the case with projects like this keen collectors will already have several of the tracks featured but Rounder have cast their net wide enough to offer something new for most diehard fans. For the casual listener looking for a good party CD this is ideal.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.

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