Friday, November 14, 2008
2 shows, 1 night: Let the good times roll
Two interesting choices in touring music are happening in the Roanoke Valley on Friday night.
At Jefferson Center in Roanoke, Allen Toussaint and his band bring decades worth of iconic hits that Toussaint wrote and produced. At Salem Civic Center, the CMT on Tour features more recent hitmakers Jason Aldean and Lady Antebellum.
In interviews I did last week with Aldean and Lady A's bandmate Dave Haywood, we talked about their hometowns. Aldean is from Macon, Ga., where the Allman Brothers Band started. Haywood, who co-writes songs and plays guitar for the trio, is from Augusta, Ga., home of James Brown. Both said that the Southern rock and soul that sprang from their respective towns are an influence on them, their songwriting and their other musical choices.
But those guys are just tapping the source. New Orleans' own Toussaint -- inducted in 1998 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his greatness as a producer, arranger and songwriter -- is himself a mighty source worth tapping.
I remember from childhood hearing the song "Ya Ya," and though I had no idea who was performing the song, it became an earworm that still pops up today. It was a Lee Dorsey/Toussaint collaboration. The first time I heard "Working in the Coal Mine," it was the hit single by Devo. They got it from Dorsey/Toussaint, whose version was not nearly as quirky, but undeniably funkier.
"Give It Up" starts with a Toussaint keyboard lick, but the hook is a wah-wah-ed and tremelo-soaked guitar riff that resurfaced a few years back as the driving sample of Fatlip's underground rap song, "Today's Your Day (WhachaGoneDu?)".
"Ride Your Pony," "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley," "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further" and "Yes We Can" are other killer results of the Toussaint/Dorsey collaboration. If you're not familiar, get a quick primer at myspace.com/leedorsey or youtube.com.
I could fill this column and the next with Toussaint's musical accomplishments as a producer, songwriter and performer. "Mother-in-Law," "Fortune Teller" (recently covered by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss) and "Right Place, Wrong Time" are all in his resume. Many of them were recorded at Toussaint's own Sea-Saint Studio, in New Orleans -- a landmark that Hurricane Katrina claimed.
Toussaint has no interest in resting. He and Elvis Costello collaborated in 2006 on "The River in Reverse," and Toussaint said last week that he is working on yet another new album of original material, scheduled for release next year on Nonesuch Records. He never stops writing, having only suffered once from writer's block, for two days, about 40 years ago.
"And it scared the heck out of me," he said, laughing. "Right now I'm really on a roll, and it's been going on for years."
Go to blogs.roanoke.com/rtblogs/cutnscratch, and click on "podcasts" to hear audio of my interviews with Toussaint, Aldean and Haywood. They all seem like good guys and worthy of big audiences. But for my Friday night live music choice, I'm going straight to the source.
Also at the blog, we've started a new feature -- tour diaries. It's a chance for all the bands that hit the road to tell the folks back home a little about what it's like to be out there.
We posted the first one Saturday afternoon, courtesy of Red Clay River's Dan Bivins. He and his band traveled with The Wading Girl to The Fest 7, in Gainesville, Fla. The Fest brings about 250 bands and thousands of spectators into town for three days of "punk rock, indie, hard core, metal or some variation thereof," Bivins wrote. But the event also has "two 'Americana'-esque showcases over the weekend that are mostly 'alt-country' or 'folk-punk'," he added. "And since most of us grew up in and still run in the 'punk rock/indie' crowds, we felt right at home ..."
Bivins' account of driving into the morning sunrise, sleeping at a Super 8, dining on Waffle House food and running around trying to catch as many shows as possible is a quick, fun read. And he wrote about Red Clay River's own set at a bar called Durty Nelly's.
"After a song or two, we hit the pocket and connected with the crowd," he wrote. "They sang along proudly with our cover of 'Paradise,' by John Prine. We were bought shots of whiskey and sang the better with it. A couple of songs later we finished strong with our Socialist/Anarchistic anthem, "Hammer the Chains." I had a feeling that it would go over particularly well with our counter-culture comrades. And too soon, it was over and we were hauling our gear off stage in a rush of sweat, smiles and barroom smoke."
Thanks, Dan. Go to the blog and click "Tour diaries" to read it. Bands that want to get into the tour diary mix need only e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. But keep it relatively clean, you crazy kids!