Music » Album Reviews

New albums by New Orleans musicians

Alex Woodward on new releases by Glen David Andrews, Rotary Downs, Rebirth Brass Band and more



Local bands often release new albums in time to introduce them to audiences at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and many other spring festivals. Here's a look at six albums released this spring.

Glen David Andrews
Redemption (Louisiana Red Hot Records)

Glen David Andrews seems to be constantly at the front line of the New Orleans "culture war," where his personality outpaces even his most ardent supporters. In his latest album, Redemption, Andrews warns — or confesses — in "NY to NOLA," "I keep having dreams of demons in my sleep." His powerful trombone playing and gravelly, gospel-like intensity channel funk and guitar-powered soul and distills them to well-earned star power. "You don't know what I know, and you ain't been where I'm going," he sings on "You Don't Know," featuring a toned-down Anders Osborne. But Redemption is Andrews' show, and he's in full testimonial swagger. The album also shows Andrews' improvement as a more focused performer. "I can't stop the rain from falling, but I can change myself," he sings in standout "Surrender." "Look at me now, I've changed myself for the better."

the bally who?
A Pilferer's Patience (self-released)

When the bally who? wakes from hibernation, pay attention. Its latest project — inspired by the acclaimed New Orleans puppet adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox — takes a head trip into the source material with gorgeous, swirling psychedelic harmonies from Rene and Jacques Duffourc with a lush, feedback orchestra of saxophones and miscellaneous sound. The band pulls the dark whimsy thread from Roald Dahl's classic as the opening harmonies on "Into the Woods" bleed into a dizzying marching band chant ("everyone all in, all in, everyone in"). We meet the familiar "Farmers Three" (the farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean, "shoot to kill, they will"). And a climactic "Cannonball Suite" brings the story to its surf guitar-powered finale. It's an imaginative, exciting album and an inspired spin on a classic.

Electricspaceagesweetheart (Serial Lover Records)

Dave Fera is one of New Orleans' best pop songwriters. The unassuming frontman for Big Blue Marble regrouped Mahayla, a band modeled after '90s earworming, unabashed pop from bands like Ash and Archers of Loaf. Fera is in better-than-ever electric form on Mahayla's impressive "return" album, Electricspaceagesweetheart, the first release on the band's label. ("If I can get some sleep, I can turn this world around," Fera sings on standout track "Wilderness.") The album — recorded at the Living Room Studio and at Fudge with Better Than Ezra's Tom Drummond — marries jangly guitar-pop and oversized anthemic rock, all unpacking Fera's nostalgic themes (in his instantly recognizable nasal, earnest bubblegum voice). Though dormant for nearly a decade, Mahayla still displays killer songwriting chops ("What if she came to me, would she be kind/ and if she stayed with me, do you think that she'd want to do anything I would, or would she leave me?" Fera sings on "If I Could Have Her Tonight").

Rebirth Brass Band
Move Your Body (Basin Street Records)

The elder statesmen of contemporary brass bands, Rebirth Brass Band gave Jazz Fest crowds an early taste of its follow-up album to the Grammy Award-winning 2012 release Rebirth of New Orleans. Move Your Body comes out June 24. The band's party-ready record reliably pairs its massive, layered horns with big, blasting hooks. Its 11 tracks have a casual, live feel (this is not headphone music, after all), evident from opener "Lord Lord Lord, You Sure Been Good to Me," which drops gospel into an exuberant second line. Jazzy riffs in "Rebirth Groove" and "Take 'Em to the Moon" round out the sweaty block parties powering the sing-along title track. "On My Way" has the band slowing to out-of-character sub-reggae speeds, sounding more dirge-like and tuneless compared to the following track, "Who's Rockin', Who's Rollin'?" Its tight, Latin-influenced horns are a refreshing reminder of what the old school still can bring to the stage.

Rotary Downs
Traces (self-released)

Rotary Downs' latest full-length album features bigger, heftier riffs from the lean pop of its sleeve-worn influences Pavement and Built to Spill. It signals '70s space rock with opener "Orion," with Zack Smith's motorik drums and star-gazing keyboards propelling a chugging bassline, followed by the bulky synth and static minor keys on "Tent City." That deftly controlled bass guitar propels "Anthony's Odyssey," which easily could have emerged from a lost Gary Numan guitar-pop project. Recorded at Marigny Recording Studio, Traces also takes on disjointed Talking Heads funk ("Country Killers") and reaches into the far-outer rims of psychedelic pop ("The Sandwich Islands" is pure The Soft Bulletin-era bliss). The band's expansive, confident sound ensures another long run as a commander of New Orleans rock.

Blossom Talk (Community Records)

Michelle Ausman and Kimberly Vice debut their haunting duets on Blossom Talk, which bursts with doubled vocals and killer harmonies. Backed with little more than their ukulele or guitar (with additional instrumentation from Ross Farbe of punk band Native America, who also recorded the album), their inventive vocals draw from a Southern palette of blues and folk, and the album's intimate, bedroom quality focuses squarely on their surreal stories and singing. (For an idea of its aesthetic, its album art features a photograph of the duo as conjoined birdlike sisters buried in a bird's nest.) Despite the ukulele's tinny repetition throughout and a few too many strums where more empty space would let the duo breathe, the album's highlights are strong — "Dig" (with its mantra-like refrain, "Dig the garden / the garden grow") sounds like a surreal, forgotten folk traditional, and the almost-pop of "Dedicated" tightens into a catchy, skeletal soul song with a "whoa-oh" chorus and handclaps. A drum skitters into the album's closing track, "Deadso," with a rapidly plucked ukulele and the duo's gorgeous, lingering vocals.

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