Various Artists

New Orleans Deep Roots

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AllMusic Review by

Just what the world needs, another compilation built on old New Orleans R&B, way heavier on oddball rarities than classics and with a few recognizable names sprinkled in among a bunch of "Who are theys?" The disc is both a sampler of Night Train releases and a benefit for New Orleans' excellent public radio station WWOZ, with local institutions like Walgreen's Drug Stores, TV station WDSU, and Barq's Root Beer on board as sponsors. So it's heavy on local flavor -- Dave Bartholomew's rambunctious "Good Jax Boogie" is a jump blues for a local brew and "Chinese Bandits" by the Three Stooges (one is Frankie Ford) celebrates the stingy LSU football team's defense with a "chop-chop" hook that played to late-'50s ethnic stereotypes. There are OK instrumentals (Smokey Johnson, Clem Tervalon) and nothing-special stops on the New Orleans tourist line (Snookum Russell's "Basin Street Ain't Basin Street No More," Joe Barry's "Little Jewel of the Vieux Carre," Jody Levens' very white take on "Mardi Gras Mambo"). There are piano legends Professor Longhair (a roughly recorded live "Junco Partner" on a not-too-great sounding piano) and Tuts Washington (his "Saints Go Marching In" is too brief to register). There are big-name oddities (Art Neville, all but unrecognizable shouting out Willie Dixon's "My Babe," Eddie Bo in a spare James Brown groove with funky butt drumming and some funny lyrics -- "Sissy Walk" is actually very strong). There are weird time jumps (the Chic-ish, '70s mainstream R&B of the Gaturs, the somber brass band rap with flute solo and horn backing of the present-day Soul Rebels). And there is rock & roll that never should have escaped from the vaults (Billy Tircuit's novelty "Crazy Green Lizard") and some that ain't half-bad (Bobby Jay's "I'm Going Home"). There are dozens of better compilations out there for New Orleans R&B initiates, but someone seriously into poking around the obscure nooks and crannies of its musical heritage might find something interesting. Can't say there are undiscovered gems among these oddities, though, and there is way too much bottom-of-the-barrel scraping.