Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers

Live at Vaughan's

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Trumpeter/vocalist Kermit Ruffins is known for his role as a good-time music-maker from New Orleans. Fans who have been at one of his live shows should appreciate this club date of music with his group, the Barbecue Swingers. Tucked in the corner of Vaughan's Bar, Ruffins and friends present a program of contemporary New Orleans struts and shuffles, blues, and R&B. It's evident the crowd is into it, judging by the whoops and hollers in the background. The leader fancies himself more of an entertainer than groundbreaking musician, akin to latter-period Louis Armstrong. The more jammin' numbers are a New Orleans-flavored version of the swing-era classic "Skokiaan"; their signature tune, "Palm Court Strut"; the original "Treme' Second Line"; and an interesting modal take on James Brown's "Talking Loud and Saying Nothing," where the best trumpet playing of Ruffins is heard. Occasionally a synthesizer wash creeps in, less attractive than the electric piano or electric bass guitar accenting an overall modernized, louder approach in order to get across. "Can't Take My Baby Nowhere" is the best 12-bar blues, approaching campiness, and while derivative, the Ruffins original "Drop Me Off in New Orleans" displays the deft rambling shuffle beat commonly associated with the Crescent City. There are a couple of throwaways, particularly Neshia Ruffins' childish vocals on "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" and the closer, "O-o-h Child," a pop/R&B/rap song with arrogant lyrics contradictorily rude and praising. Otherwise, this is a fun set of music best heard in the house, rather than repeated listenings in your house.

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