The Creole String Beans perform at Jazz Fest.
Steady breezes and a merciful late-afternoon cloud cover kept things pleasant Friday at Jazz Fest.
Dressed in a vibrant-colored black kimono, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James showed why he’s among the best frontment in the business. Leading the band to wailing walls of crescendos, accented by the sinister step-out leads of guitarist Carl Broemel, James delivered on Jacket staples such as “Believe.” He welcomed frequent collaborator Ben Jaffe on tuba and other Preservation Hall players to crush two Prince covers: “Sign O the Times” and a deep grooving “Purple Rain,” which purple-shirt clad drummer closed delicately on the high hats. The band delivered an epic set-closing “One Big Holiday,” one of many monsters in the band’s considerable canon and one ripped up by James’ soaring vocals and shredding Gibson Flying V guitar play.
At the Acura stage, there were “lasers in the jungle” to kick off a white fedora-adorned Paul Simon set that began with “Boy in the Bubble” and followed with “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Unfortunately, sound issues during the set ranged from wind-strewn to fuzzy to ear-splitting feedback.
Before a Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage audience, the folkish funky Creole String Beans shared the stage with T.K. Hulin. The old-school South Louisiana blue-eyed swamp soul guitarist and singer declared early in the set, “That was the funnest three minutes of my life,” before launching into a rousing rendition of “Down Home Girl,” a festive field holler about women stomping through cotton fields and smelling of pork and beans, first recorded by Alvin Robinson in 1964 and since covered by everyone from the Rolling Stones to Old Crow Medicine Show. Brian Rini’s slick organ groove lifted the cover to huge heights before the String Beans sailed into a jamming, up-tempo “Let the Money Drop” from its new album Golden Crown
Radiators spin-off Raw Oyster Cult billed its Gentilly stage set as “with Fishy Friends.” A quick cover of the Stones “Get Off My Cloud” drifted into the Rads’ festive “Long Hard Journey Home” with its “keep on playing, children” refrain — a classic propelled here by set guitarist Camile Baudoin trademark hot licks slaying psychedelic swamp boogie like no other as per usual,
Honey Island Swamp Band celebrated release day of its major-label (Ruf Records) debut in style. Aaron Wilkinson’s lyricism shined on the cut-throat optimism of “Head High Water Blues,” a track included on Demolition Day
, produced in low-fi splendor by Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi All-Stars) at Parlor Studio in the Irish Channel. Trevor Brooks’ keys swirled an outro highlighted by the pulsing horn trio of trombone, trumpet and the saxophone of ascendant local jazzman extraordinaire Brad Walker (he of last week’s Sturgill Simpson “Tonight Show with Stephen Colbert” fame).
South Mississippi/New Orleans troubadour Cary Hudson delighted the friendly vibe permeating the shade of the Lagniappe Stage. Choice selections from his Blue Mountain days — the seminal alt-country outfit he founded with New Orleans-area siblings Laurie and John Stirratt (Wilco bassist) — “Blue Canoe” and “Soul Sister” set up an uplifting good-time full of back-woods hippie praise and prayer tone early in the set. Assembling what he called an “all-star” band, the Piney Woods Players were highlighted by the blistering melds of electric guitarist (and Chris Stapleton doppelganger) Jackson Purvis, from sizzling local Southern rockers South Jones. Deftly playing a host of guitarist, Hudson switched to harmonica as he gave former touring companion Willie Nelson a birthday shout-out (82!), introducing a song about the red-headed stranger’s favorite topic of women with “Mississippi Country Girl” from his superb sixth solo release Town and Country
, recorded last year in New Orleans and released to in-the-know acclaim.
The Revivalists showed why the band now sells out multiple nights at venues like Tipitina’s with all the sensual musicality a band can provide with “Fade Away,” which frontman David Shaw delivered with seasoned panache.
Los Lobos has been, and still is, capable of killer shows. Lacking in energy, the legendary Latin rock band’s performance of its landmark 19887 album La Pistola y El Corazon fell flat at times.