John Boutté

Jambalaya

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A powerfully rhythmic, delightfully hypnotic representation of the resiliency of the Crescent City, John Boutte's Treme (perhaps the creative centerpiece of this diverse gumbo of a collection) is the perfect theme song for the popular HBO series about N'awlins people living in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But the classic stomping vibe of that piece and a handful of others (including the opening romp "Two Bands Rolling") is just part of the diverse magical vibe created by a true native son who sounds a tad like Rod Stewart and whose two-decade career is infused with everything from jazz and gospel to R&B, blues, and Latin music. He uses his raspy soul voice to channel Sam Cooke on a restrained but emotionally searing version of "A Change Is Gonna Come," and finds a clever way to merge gospel with danceable upright bass-driven jazz swing on "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Other tunes, like the midtempo ballad "Shake My Gate," are pure blues-soul-pop that could have come from any region. A good example of how he blends his N'awlins soul and his gospel musical roots is "At the Foot of Canal Street," which paints its hometown imagery with a lighthearted, skipping gospel groove. The overall effect is like church-hopping through the gritty neighborhoods of New Orleans (he hails from the 7th Ward), looking beyond any sorrow and devastation to the call of a higher power that tells Boutte, yes, you and your fellow natives can overcome.

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