With a Mardi Gras Indian heritage themselves, the Neville Brothers sing, "The prettiest thing you've ever seen/Mardi Gras Indians down in New Orleans." The brothers are speaking of the 16 tribes of Indians that come out on Mardi Gras morning, resplendent in their magnificent costumes of hand-sewn beads and feathers. This practice recognizes the role that the Louisiana Houma Indians played in providing refuge to runaway slaves in the 1800s. The resulting mixture of cultures produced the tradition seen on the streets of the city of New Orleans. People come from all over the world to see the Mardi Gras Indians. The best-known Indians of all are the Wild Magnolias, led by chief Bo Dollis. In his gravelly voice, Dollis leads the Indians in chants and funkified Afro-Caribbean music as they wind their way through the streets of the city. Monk Boudreaux, chief of the Golden Eagles, accompanies him on vocals -- a combination of shouts, chants, and call and response. Followed by the second line, they celebrate the holiday, while the spy boy keeps a look out for other Indians. When they meet, they preen and taunt and dance, exemplified by their lyric, "We don't bow and we don't kneel." In the old days, Indians used to fight, sometimes to the death. In modern times they dress and dance each other down, vying for who is the prettiest. This CD captures the excitement of this unique cultural tradition, with both traditional Indian songs and some contemporary additions, penned by the well-known names of Toussaint, Neville, and Rebennack -- the last being Dr. John, who is a Hoodoo Indian -- if not by birth, then by predilection. Styles ranging from R&B to gospel to jazz blend to create this unique carnival music. Drums, horns, and the tambourine are used to produce it. The traditional "Indian Red" speaks to where the Indians came from; songs like "Walk on Gilded Splinters," "Injuns Here They Come," and "I Been Hoodood" express a contemporary sensibility. Just as the Mardi Gras Indians must be seen to be believed for their beauty, they must be heard to be appreciated for their musicianship. World Wide Hoodoo gives the listener the opportunity to do just that.
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AllMusic Review by Rose of Sharon Witmer