There’s something about special Crescent City music projects. A memorable one is Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album for the Gulf Coast, assembled in 2005 to benefit Hurricane Katrina victims. It kicked off with a rousing “Yes We Can Can” by Allen Toussaint, and continued at about the same level throughout.
Take Me to the River: New Orleans is a 2022 documentary that received at least one notable mediocre review, but we’re talking about music here, right? The soundtrack is another story. How do you go wrong with the personnel? Irma Thomas, a Meters co-founder in George Porter, Jr., one first-gen Neville in Cyril, and two second-gens in Ian and Ivan of Dumpstaphunk … the list is long. A favorite track is the very funky “Knockin’,” with Ledisi serving up lead vocals. I thought she was an out-of-town guest, but it turns out that the California-raised singer was born in the Big Easy.
There’s also a pair of projects on the horizon worth getting excited about. Vocalist Laranah Phipps Ray has just released the first single from her upcoming album, Game Changer. She calls it “Afrofuturistic jazz/funk/R&B.” She scats and soars with a five-octave range, accompanied by a talented ensemble called La Funkalicious. I played “Jazz Crimes,” penned by the great sax man Joshua Redman, for the first time on The Soul Show last Saturday. Having only a weekly broadcast, I don’t like to lock in on a track for very long. This one is excellent enough to ruin the plan.
The other project is an upcoming James “Biscuit” Rouse tribute to the late drummer Buddy Miles. I had a sneak listen 2-3 years ago, but its release was delayed pending a European distribution deal. The first single is planned for release shortly. Stay tuned.
Mike Canton is the longtime host and producer of The Soul Show on WYEP 91.3FM. He recently launched a syndicated edition of the program, now airing in four markets. Both are produced in his Electric Basement Studios. Canton is also a Pittsburgh-area voice artist.