Thank David Egan the next time you see him. He doesn’t put out records at a fleet clip, but when he does, it’s a gift. His latest present to the idiom we might call Southern Blues/R-n-B (with an emphasis on the B) is a self-titled, 12-song record that jives and wails and cries in its beer.
Pulling back just a bit from the style explorations on his stellar, 2008 record, You Don’t Know Your Mind, Egan drills down into the blues on this baby, plumbing the depths and nuances of a musical style that is as faceted as any and, like jazz, celebrates grace notes and the magical gaps between beats. And this is where Egan is in his element, massaging the piano with a kind of elegantly efficient confidence that doesn’t need to show off. Just the right notes in the right phrases at the right moments — expressions of a musician who has mellowed with age and paternity but lost none of that child-like wonder at how gorgeous and gratifying a well-written and -played song can be. Egan keeps it simple on this one, allowing his facile song writing to spread its musky tail feathers center stage.
This is a blues record at its core, but Egan knows the genre like a musicologist and brings the listener on a master tour of the garden, slipping seamlessly from New Orleans and Memphis R-n-B to barrelhouse, boogie woogie and satiny swamp pop, with a nod here and there to good ol’ rock’n’roll. Egan is at his best when the beat and amplifiers fall away and the listener is left with spare, mournful, jazzy blues songs. “Blues How They Linger” tops the list. “Sad Sad Satisfaction” runs a close second.
With a rhythm section of Mike Sipos (drums) and Ron Eoff (bass) and contributions from guitarists Joe McMahan, Bruce McDonald, Lil’ Buck Senegal and Buddy Flett, saxophonist Dickie Landry, percussionist Mike Dillon, backing vocals from Roddie Romero and Caleb Elliot, and even a cameo on the t-fer by Tony Daigle, David Egan’s latest is an all-you-can-eat blues buffet. Belly up and enjoy.
He debuted it at Jazz Fest a few weeks ago. It’s available now online and at iTunes and hits local shelves in June. Well worth the wait. — Walter Pierce
When Joe Krown, Walter “Wolfman” Washington and Russell Batiste aren’t lighting it up with their side projects, they’re burning a hole in the heart of funk at their weekly Sunday-night gigs at the famed Maple Leaf in New Orleans’ Uptown.
Soul Understanding, a 12-song disc of originals penned separately by all three members — Krown on organ (he plays the bass line with his left hand, natch), Washington on guitar, Batiste on drums — speaks the musical language of the Big Easy with fluid understatement. It’s their third record together, following 2008’s Live at the Maple Leaf (an Offbeat Award winner) and 2010’s Triple Threat. Krown’s ’58 Hammond B3 with Leslie speakers — is there a more classic funk/r’n’b organ? (that’s a rhetorical question) — is smooth as butter, whipped by Batiste’s monster chops and spread lovingly by Washington’s bluesy licks. Separately, these cats are the cream of the New Orleans musical scene. Together, they rise to the top. — WP
What to make of Davell Crawford’s latest, My Gift to You? It’s all over the place stylistically — r’n’b, jazz, blues, country, pop, gospel — an encapsulation of Crawford’s wide-ranging influences. He covers James Taylor, Billy Joel, Allen Toussaint and Steve Winwood, and the record even features accordion and fiddle performances by Steve Riley on two tracks. What unifies it are Crawford’s pure, high, soulful tenor, his impeccable piano playing and the lush production and orchestration.
Crawford has been hailed for years as the heir to the Professor Longhair/James Booker New Orleans piano dynasty, yet he never seems compelled to prove it on My Gift to You — although on the track “Going Back to Louisiana” he underscores his mastery of the idiom.
On his cover of Booker’s “Junco Partner,” Crawford slows the tempo to a trickle and layers the piano with organ and clavinet, creating psychedelic swells reminiscent of Dr. John, who makes a couple of gravelly voiced contributions to the record as well. It’s nearly unrecognizable from the original and an apt encapsulation of Crawford’s ability to simultaneously explore and celebrate the music of his hometown while crafting something new and original. Many try, but few succeed as well. — WP