The Hot 8 Brass Band's May 2013 release of Tombstone follows hot on the heels of their November 2012 set, The Life & Times Of... Most of this material was written and arranged during the previous sessions; they're sister recordings. While The Life & Times Of... focused on the NOLA outfit's distinctive brand of second line and party music, Tombstone reflects its title. While the sounds on this all-original set are not at all somber, many of the subjects of these tunes are. This is an album mostly dedicated to former bandmembers -- four who left the world prematurely -- and other departed friends and musicians. In the grand Crescent City tradition, they pay tribute with their own brand of NOLA brass band music that both encompasses the tradition with trumpets, trombones, sousaphone, bass, and snare drums --and stinging guitars, on this disc -- and embraces the organic funk and hip-hop of the gritty city streets. Big Al Huntley sets it all up on the "Tombstone Intro" with a rap atop the group's funky second-line maneuvers. "Homies," "Shot Gun Joe," "Milwaukee Fat," "Eldridge," and "Take It to the Home" all reflect the band's losses. The music is full on, at once sophisticated and nasty, straight-up rocking and swinging, full of sorrow, rage, determination, and yes, joy. "We Goin' to Make It" is an anthem with chanted choruses amid the rich harmonics, criss-crossing rhythms, and imaginative horn charts that offer steely resolve in the face of tragedy. But this wouldn't be a Hot 8 Brass Band record without some orgiastic party jams, and there are three doozies here: the rowdy, burning funk of "Wolf Burger," the steamy, sweaty "Hot 8 Shit," and the bawdy, raucous "Big Girl." Though the context of Tombstone is different than its predecessor, and it's the group's first album of completely original material, this set may reveal more about Hot 8 than anything they've previously released. For listeners who can hear everything from NOLA's rich brass band tradition reflected in these thoroughly modern yet timeless grooves, this is all-killer no-filler entertainment. For those familiar with Hot 8's trials, tribulations, triumphs in the face of adversity, and musical development, this set takes it all to the next level.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek