January 7th - Roots: The Rock and Roll Sound of Louisiana and Mississippi

Editor's note: this is the first of what I hope will be fairly regular guest posts on 365FolkDays; this piece comes from my very good friend Lee, and is literally what i hoped this website would be like before I started trying to write this good and in depth.

I picked this one out because the music of Shirley and Lee is enough to convince me that 1950s/60s Gulf Coast pop is Extremely Good And Of Interest. I'm always pretty game to listen to anything from New Orleans, because I appreciate the syncretic weirdness, gratuitous rhythmic complexity, and general exuberance that that part of the world brings to music of all genres.

The idiosyncratic and not-super-helpful liner notes specify that all of the artists recorded here are recording exclusively under LYNN'S PRODUCTION, based at 1522 Baronne St., which I Google-mapped out of curiosity; it's between Central City and the Lower Garden District, and it's worth taking a gander at how it looks today. 

Highlights:

  • The opening track, "More Than One," by Phil Marks and the Originals, is some extremely sweet and straightforward pop, and made me very stoked to discover what lay ahead.  
  • I loved "Rome Wasn't Built In A Day", by Maxine Thomas, who is dressed like a prom queen in her photo in the liner notes, but who sings with a growl around the edge of her voice that made me feel things.
  • Doug and Dave's "Going Steady" is the oddest song on the record, with strangely arrhythmic but compelling vocal harmonies that make you want to check if you're playing your mp3 at the wrong RPM. "I'll Never Fall In Love Again", by Cookie Gabriel, is a close second, with a langorously spooky organ backing that suggests the reason the singer has forsworn love is to become an immortal ghoul or wraith of some kind.
  • The very earnest "No Boy in this World", by Nancy Stewart, is the most reminiscent of the Shirley and Lee song I linked above, until, spoiler warning, a flute solo comes along. Truly, this album kept me on my toes.
  • The final track, The Perail's "Boss Walk", is an odd and deeply joyful song that I'll be saving to play for myself next time I'm having trouble getting motivated.  

The songs on this album blend blues, brass, and the ardent urgency of Phil Spector-type pop, plus some stuff that's just plain hard to describe. I'd highly recommend it.

Click here to read liner notes and purchase this album from Smithsonian Folkways