Chuck Perkins: A Love Song for Nola (Trikont)

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Chuck Perkins: We Ain't Dead Yet
Chuck Perkins: A Love Song for Nola (Trikont)

Those with a rose-tinted view of New Orleans are usually those who haven't been there and taken a wrong turn into a street where menace seeps from the walls at knifepoint. They are often people seduced by the idea of "jazz" and partytime and haven't heard the bruising and distinctive rap which slams out of the place, or read a Big Easy crime statistic.

In recent times there have been some fine books written about the real city (The Year Before the Flood by Ned Sublette comes recommended as a starter) and Katrina/the flooding showed what a deeply fractured city the place always was beneath the colourful street parades and music festivals.

The television series Treme -- especially the second season -- shone something of a light on the dark side of the city's warring cultures and torn loyalties.

Poet/singer Chuck Perkins both celebrates and condemns the various cultures -- tradition Vs gangbangers, dream Vs reality -- in powerful spoken word pieces and songs which haul those distinctive musical sounds into the tough world of stabbings in the alley, failed politics, lies from government level downward and crackhouse streets.

This often isn't pretty -- it isn't mean to be -- but he also touches some deeply emotional place in his love for the city that almost drowned and might fail even now. There is romance here too.

Perkins pulls in second line grooves and funky r'n'b with a collective of musicians from the Treme Brass Band, an younger Marsalis (drummer Jason) and others who are steeped in this sound.

If over the long haul -- 17 songs -- you might feel you'be been hit a little too often by a hammer it's probably worth remember that it's a hammer which sends out a ring of truth. Uncomfortable though that may be.

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