I took part in a panel discussion at the first of hopefully many Tabby's Hoodoo Party and 21st century Blues Symposium last night and the experience reaffirmed a couple things. First, it was made abundantly clear that Tab Benoit kicks ass, both as an engaging speaker and storyteller during the panel and as a player – he tore it up playing with Chris Thomas King in the Black Box theater at the Shaw Center. Second, the screenings of Robert Mugge's Louisiana music documentaries reaffirmed the idea that we live in an interesting place. Thirdly, it reminded me that we have a lot of work to do. The attendance was pretty low, there were kinks to be worked out but I think everyone involved walked away with the sense that a conference like this is worth doing. Culturally, we are so close to the root here that we forget about the tree the rest of the world sees as bearing the best fruit.
Speaking of roots, this week is a tangle of great roots music. Dread Clampitt is soulful string band from Grayton Beach that creates an intoxicating concoction out of bluegrass, rock, blues, R&B and what-have-you. They are appearing at Chelsea's on Friday with Baton Rouge music legend (not to mention former sideman for Elvis Presley) Duke Bardwell.
If I were hard-pressed to name my favorite female singer, I'd say it was Susan Cowsill, who is performing this Saturday at the Red Dragon. Susan got her start in the original family band The Cowsills and found her voice as one of the musical forces in the Continental Drifters. Since then, Susan is a mainstay at Carrolton Station in New Orleans where she and her band interpret classic records in toto. Her solo record Just Believe It is a devastating mesh of hope and despair, strength and fragility. Susan is not to be missed, especially in the intimate confines of the Red Dragon.
I still love Susan Cowsill, but her performance was canceled.
Hamilton Loomis is a blues and funk magpie from Katy, Texas who went backstage at Bo Diddley show at sixteen and started a lifelong friendship with the singer. Diddley said of Loomis, "You got to put some seasonin' in what you're doin', and this boy's got the whole salt shaker!" On his most recent album Ain't Just Temporary, the influence that comes to mind is soulful chicken strut blues of Dr. John. Loomis will be plying his funky wares at Phil Brady's on Friday before heading off to three weeks in Australia.
The description Jim Lauderdale's MySpace page says it all – "Real Music." Jim rose to fame writing songs for George Strait and Patty Loveless and won a couple Grammys along the way. However, on his run of earthy solo records in the 1990s, he established himself as one of the true voices of Americana: a folksy amalgam of tradition and modern life wrought from a love of real music. He is playing this Friday as well at the Manship Theatre.
Paul Burch is becoming a regular around these parts, laying down his sweet version of high lonesome country at Chelsea's on Thursday, touring behind his new album Still Your Man, as is Texas wildcat Roger Creager appearing that evening at the Varsity. I also have it on good authority that Denton Hatcher and the Sopabox Country Blues is a hayride you do not want to miss this Saturday at North Gate Tavern. You know, Baton Rouge, if you want to keep this up become a full-on roots music town, you have my full endorsement. Also go hit the Louisiana Book Festival on Saturday, downtown baton Rouge. Do it!