Photo | Courtesy of Blind Ambition Management
Photo | Darren Manzari
From left: Cha Wa and Anders Osborne are among the New Orleans artists featured at SouthSounds.
Band: Anders Osborne, George Porter Jr., Cha Wa, Johnny Sansone, Yeah, Probably
Date: Saturday, April 13, with doors at 4 p.m.
Venue: O’Daly’s Irish Pub, 564 Dauphin St. (Mobile), odalysirishpub.com
Tickets: $15 (adv. single-day)/$30 (adv. weekend), available at O’Daly’s
On Saturday night, SouthSounds will reach a climax with an invasion of New Orleans artists.
Crescent City guitar maestro Anders Osborne returns to Mobile for the first time in nearly a decade. For SouthSounds, he will give his audience a preview of tracks from his upcoming album, “Buddha & the Blues.”
Osborne said the music on this album began, as with many of his other works, with a complex, multilevel vision. “It was just kind of a sonic, visual thing,” he said. “I had envisioned something with a landscape built in a certain way. Usually, when I write records, I write with something in mind. I have the studio and the time of year. I wouldn’t go as far as saying maybe the stars and moon align, but I go pretty deep into that type of stuff and try to get an atmosphere going. The songs tend to fall into place easier if I have a visual.”
For this album, Osborne saw California and brought himself back to the records he grew up with in the ‘70s. He looked to producer Chad Cromwell for assistance in his sonic vision. Cromwell’s musical legacy boasts work with Neil Young, Joe Walsh and many others, which made him perfect for Osborne’s plan.
Cromwell also came with an impressive lineup of musicians to help complete the album: Waddy Wachtel (Fleetwood Mac, Warren Zevon) brought his guitar to Brethren Studio in Ojai. Bassist Bob Glaub (Jackson Browne, John Lennon, Don Henley) also joined the mix. Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash) lent his keys and Cromwell’s wife, Windy Wagner (Ringo Starr, Rod Stewart), provided backing vocals, which Osborne says highlight the album.
“The background vocals that Windy puts on there are just staggering, and so pristine and so precise with a lot of nice atmosphere to it,” said Osborne. “It reminds me of the beautiful things Fleetwood Mac used to do.”
Even though he has been known for his raw and raucous take on music, Osborne successfully completes his West Coast vision for “Buddha & the Blues.” This departure from the familiar resonates with the gentle warmth of the ‘70s that made bands such as Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles legendary. “Alone” and “The One I Love,” for example, are classic West Coast country rock ballads.
Osborne fans also will find cuts built around a core of his bawdy New Orleans rock, such as “Smoke and Mirrors.”
“It’s slightly worn out, but it’s tight,” Osborne said of the new album. “It’s more of a balance of tough and clean sounds. I wanted it to be like the West Coast records I used to listen to. There’s a little bit less of that New Orleans dirt and that hard-rocking stuff. When we rock, there’s just a tighter sound to it than I’ve done before. I was exploring and really enjoying that stuff.”
Cha Wa has the potential to be one of the most memorable bands of the whole weekend. This group takes the traditional festive chants of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians and sets them to a mix of modern funky grooves and classic New Orleans brass.
Spyboy J’Wan Boudreaux leads the charge with his vocal work. As the grandson of Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, he has reveled in the Mardi Gras Indian lifestyle since he was a child. Boudreaux says he always wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, but Monk Boudreaux wanted to make sure his grandson knew what he was doing.
“If I asked him to borrow money, he would say, ‘You need a job that has money, like a regular job instead of performing,’” Boudreaux said. “He would give me tips on singing and things. He pushed me harder to better myself as a musician and a person. With him being my grandfather, I was around him a lot more than someone you were looking at on the TV. I was just so into wanting to do music that if I went to college, then I wouldn’t have done music.”
Joe Gelini is both the drummer and founder of Cha Wa. Gelini has worked this specific corner of the New Orleans music scene for quite some time, lending his beats to Boudreaux for many years and eventually becoming his music director, which put him in charge of rehearsals and preparation for gigs. Gelini also produced Bo Dollis Jr.’s last record, which features Monk Boudreaux and Bo Dollis Sr.
“After doing that for a number of years, I wanted to break out and do my own thing,” Gelini said. “It seemed a natural evolution to have J’Wan sing for the band and carry the torch Monk created and moving it into the next generation.”
Boudreaux says that the spontaneous, expressive nature of the chants can make setting them to music challenging. When they’re in the streets, Boudreaux says the only instrument they use is a drum. Otherwise, vocal work drives the Mardi Gras Indian chants. He says it was a learning experience putting the chants to music, especially when stops, bridges and keys are involved. The chants undergo a transformation from the streets to the stage, Boudreaux says.
Cha Wa has taken the sights, sounds and culture of the Mardi Gras Indians around the globe. When the group arrives in Mobile, they will perform songs from the Grammy-nominated album “Spyboy,” produced by Galactic’s Ben Ellman. Gelini says Cha Wa is currently working on the band’s next studio album, which will be released in spring 2020.
Boudreaux says the age difference between the members of Cha Wa brings a variety of classic and modern influences. “You can’t get this nowhere else but in New Orleans,” he said. “You never know what to expect, because we’re pretty versatile.”
“Our tagline would be ‘Bringing the parade from the street to the stage,” added Gelini. “We’re bringing that energy for people to participate in.”
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