'Tis the season for Ivan Neville. Spring is the funkiest time of year in New Orleans, what with Mardi Gras, the French Quarter Festival and Jazz Fest, and the Neville name is synonymous with all of the above. Though based in Los Angeles, Ivan has been in New Orleans recently helping put the finishing touches on a new Neville Brothers album. He has been co-writing and co-producing the album, which is due out around Jazz Fest. While the Neville Brothers album was being completed, Ivan's second album was re-released. On Friday, Feb. 27, he and his band, DumpstaFunk, are celebrating the record's second life at The Howlin' Wolf headlining a show that includes Bonerama and Cyril Neville.
The show is DumpstaFunk's first gig since last year's stellar set at Jazz Fest. This time Neville has both Russell Batiste Jr. and Raymond Weber on drums as well as Tony Hall and Nick Daniels on bass. "There'll be some switching out," Neville says, "but there'll be some double drum stuff, too." The band's configuration changes according to who's available, and this lineup includes New Orleans funk-scene mainstays June Yamagishi and Cyril Neville as well as Ian Neville and J Infinite, a turntablist. "My funkiness emerged again," Ivan explains. The show also recognizes the re-release of Neville's 2002's album, Saturday Morning Music. "Nobody heard of it and it sat and gathered dust," he recalls, "and (then) a company (Compendia) asked, 'What's going on with that record?'" When he told them it was languishing in anonymity, Compendia repackaged and re-titled the disc Scrape. "It was a bridge into a new life of creativity. When I started doing that record, I was a couple of years sober," says Neville, adding that even though the songs aren't very new, they remain relevant to him in a spiritual sense. "I talk a lot about stuff like gratitude live your life while you're here. I talk in a roundabout way about the state of the world and how we relate to the world around us, and we have to accept that sometimes it's not so pretty and that we have to create our own beauty."
As winter ends, a young man's fancy turns to festivals. The 2004 Bonnaroo Music Festival, which runs from June 11-13, has announced its lineup, and it includes The Dead, Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, Trey Anastasio and Willie Nelson. While jam bands and the hippie-friendly dominate the lineup, other featured artists include David Byrne, Wilco, Burning Spear, Yo La Tengo, Yonder Mountain String Band, the Del McCoury Band, Neko Case, My Morning Jacket, Calexico and the Black Keys. The festival once again will be held on the 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tenn., that served as last year's host site, 60 miles south of Nashville. For more information and more complete lineup information, visit www.bonnaroo.com.
"It was our first tour with a tour bus, and on the first night it broke down in Corpus Christi." The Bottle Rockets' Brian Henneman remembers New Orleans well because the band hopped in a replacement bus to make it here, "then the other bus pulled up out front of The Howlin' Wolf while we were playing. I looked outside and saw two tour buses," he laughs. The Bottle Rockets will open for Lucinda Williams at House of Blues on Sunday, Feb. 29, and will feature songs from their new album, Blue Sky. The band has always worn its influences on its sleeve, and the title track has all the sweetness of a Lovin' Spoonful song. "That's exactly what its parents were," Henneman says of the song. "Last year I was listening to a Lovin' Spoonful collection, and the song's the result of listening to that way too long." Similarly, in 2002 the band released Songs of Sahm, an album that covered songs by the Sir Douglas Quintet's Doug Sahm. "We loved that guy," Henneman says. "I thought everybody knew and loved him." Henneman soon found that Sahm's garage/country/psychedelia wasn't as universally known as he thought, but on those tracks, "you can hear a guy loving life. The idea that life's a groove is as evident as the guitars."
The working class sensibility that has been the Bottle Rockets' signature is just as obvious on Blue Sky. "Lucky Break" sympathetically depicts a guy for whom being on workman's compensation represents "my dream come true/Doing nothing, getting a check." "Baggage Claim" mourns no longer being able to meet traveling lovers at the gate when they deplane, capturing one of the subtle changes to occur in the aftermath of Sept. 11. Drummer Mark Ortmann "wrote those lyrics and emailed them to me," Henneman recalls. "He said they're probably a piece of shit."
- Ivan Neville is in town working on a new Neville Brothers CD and playing with his band, DumpstaFunk, Friday at The Howlin' Wolf.