“Hot tamales and they’re red hot, yes you got em’ for sale, I mean
Yes, she got em’ for sale Hot tamales and they’re red hot…”
—Robert Johnson, “They’re Red Hot”
[H]aving reemerged from almost total destruction by Hurricane Katrina, the independent New Orleans-based label Louisiana Red Hot Records continues to offer intriguing southern music: blues, jazz, funk, zydeco and Cajun. Owner Harris Rea and his team have launched such popular acts as Trombone Shorty, Rebirth Jazz Band, and Ivan Neville’s Dumpstafunk. We center our attention here on six artists, some of which debuted with Louisiana Red Hot this year. All these artists are, of course, red hot.
Seattle native Colin Lake moved to the Crescent City seven years ago and quickly established himself as a talented slide guitarist and emerging roots and blues singer/songwriter. On his national debut, One Thing That’s for Sure, he’s joined not only by some of that city’s most notable musicians, but Luther Dickinson as well. Throughout the album, emotion-packed tunes like “I’m Trying to Tell You” and “Pay the Price” are balanced nicely by joyful love songs like “She’s Mine” while Lake’s lap steel runs and natural knack for songwriting prove particularly impressive.
Former New Yorker Marc Stone has been a New Orleans resident for over 20 years, spending his time mostly as a session guitarist for many of the city’s headliners and hosting the popular radio show, “Soul Serenade” on WWOZ. Like Lake, Stone is primarily a slide guitarist and he’s recently released his national debut. Poison & Medicine was produced by both Stone and rock producer Papa Mali and features a wide array of funky horn and rhythm contributions from the Honey Island Swamp Band, Dirty Dozen Brass Brand, and Walter Wolfman Washington’s Roadmasters, while Stone shines on vocals as well as his Telecaster and slide leads. This album, as much as any of Louisiana Red Hot’s gems, represents the entire spectrum of its genres.
John Lisi & Delta Funk want you to know that there’s “fun” in funk. Lisi is acknowledged by his peers as one of the best guitarists in Louisiana—no small claim. Over the years, his collaborators have included Dr. John, Jimbo Mathus, and Bryan Lee, among many others. This year, he released Shut the Front Door! on Louisiana Red Hot. Here, his seven-piece band soul/blues band supports his dexterous command of Dobro, mandolin, resonator and Stratocaster. This album mashes New Orleans sounds with those akin to Little Feat. Check out the danceable “Where’d Ya’ Go Radio,”, “No Good Man” and “We Sho’ Ain’t Saints.”
Twenty years in Austin allowed singer/songwriter Kevin Sekhani to play with some outstanding folks, like accordionist Michael Ramos (Patty Griffin), bassist/co-writer Andrew Duplantis (Son Volt) and ace fiddler Warren Hood. In 2010, Sekhani moved back to his hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana to front the Mercy Brothers, a gospel group that later signed with Louisiana Red Hot. He also moved into secular territory with his recent, primarily Cajun album, Day Ain’t Done, featuring the aforementioned players, co-writer/guitarist Tim Veillon and more. The album’s mix of violin, mandolin, accordion and guitars creates a rousing back porch vibe, and its centerpiece track, “Oilfield Tan,” has already become popular on local radio.
Hailing from the storied Treme neighborhood, killer vocalist Glen David Andrews is the first cousin of the more famous fellow trombonist, Trombone Shorty. While Shorty seems to be leaning toward jazz these days, Andrews remains anchored in that indigenous New Orleans gumbo of soul, blues, funk and gospel. On Redemption, his most recent album and fifth for Louisiana Red Hot, Andrews calls upon both native players (Anders Osborne, Ivan Neville, Bell Ellman of Galactic) and his own fiery band. Sampling Mahalia Jackson and covering Curtis Mayfield, Andrews creates New Orleans music that is both classic and contemporary. Think of the music featured in the HBO series named for his home neighborhood—that’s what Glen David Andrews brings.
The Honey Island Swamp Band is currently the most popular national act among these six. Their most recent album was their 2013 Louisiana Red Hot debut, Cane Sugar. The band has received considerable awards and recognition since forming in San Francisco in the aftermath of Katrina (guitarist Chris Mulé, a New Orleans native, and bassist Aaron Wilkinson,a Floridian, were marooned there while touring with Eric Lindell). Like many of the aforementioned artists, the Honey Island Swamp Band draw from varied influences, including Little Feat, The Band, Taj Mahal. Gram Parsons, “Gatemouth” Brown, Dr. John and Earl King. And, similarly, they enlist the support of the city’s prominent musicians, like keyboardist Jon Cleary and guitarist John Mooney. Cane Sugar is solid throughout but if you need to sample a couple of tunes, try “Cast the First Stone” and “Prodigal Son”.
Whether you want to spin these discs to dance or just to listen to, they won’t disappoint. Like platters of hot tamales, they are red hot.