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So sweet so cold so fair
August 30, 2005 10:58 PM   Subscribe

St. James Infirmary, in a funereal, no lyrics, brass-band version underlies a persistent scrum of half-remembered songs about New Orleans rising in concert with the waters, lapping at the sandbags of my mind. Up front, Tom Waits (I Wish I Was in New Orleans) and Randy Newman (Lousiana 1927) are duking it out for time at the piano, elaborately filigreed chords overlapping and changing the dominant lyric at the moment of harmonic convergence, while in the background Arlo Guthrie (The City of New Orleans) warbles about a train ride. Professor Longhair and/or The Dixie Cups (Big Chief, Iko Iko) sort of amusedly fight to keep sliptime with the martial drums from Jimmy Driftwood's The Battle of New Orleans (caution: embedded quicktime) behind the whole toxic soup of sonic residue. I'm sure the stew will grow more dense over the next couple weeks. Got a New Orleans song to toss into the waters?
posted by mwhybark (45 comments total)

 
I once considered making a post about st james infirmary after coming across this.
posted by juv3nal at 11:04 PM on August 30, 2005


luriete actually did so, and it's surely worth reading. I don't know what the relationship between the post and the essay are, but both are wonderful resources.

Wonderful enough that I discarded the essay as my top link. :)
posted by mwhybark at 11:16 PM on August 30, 2005


Whoops, and yup, that essay did get linked oncet already.
posted by mwhybark at 11:18 PM on August 30, 2005


huh. I've had "When the Levee Breaks"on my mind all day.
posted by black8 at 11:19 PM on August 30, 2005


Bourbon Blues on the street, loose and complete,
under skies all smokey-blue-green.
I can't forsake a Dixie dead shake,
so we danced the sidewalk clean..
My memory is muddy,
what's this river that I'm in?..
New Orleans is Sinking
Man,
and I don't wanna swim....
posted by fionab at 11:24 PM on August 30, 2005


This one, I think, is especially appropriate. I posted it in another thread, but it bears repeating: "Hurricane" by Leon Everette.
posted by Clay201 at 11:47 PM on August 30, 2005


I was born on the rain of the Ponchatrain beneath that Louisiana Moon
Don't mind the strain of the hurricane, she comes 'round every June
And high black water, she's the devils daughter, she's hard and she's cold, and she's mean
Nobody’s taught her that it takes a lot of water to wash away New Orleans
posted by Clay201 at 11:49 PM on August 30, 2005


I've been annoying my fiancée by intermittently playing Tender Trap's "Oh Katrina" (mp3 located right hand column, about midway down). I should probably give a spin to "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves as well.
posted by JT at 12:06 AM on August 31, 2005


I don't know how it's been missed in here, of all places, but it's hard to be more creepily appropriate than the Tragically Hip's 1989 anthem "New Orleans is Sinking (and I Don't Wanna Swim)".


posted by j-dub at 12:24 AM on August 31, 2005


Pretty much anything by the Morning 40 Federation.

I remember that they had a song about the Ninth Ward, but I don't remember any of the words or anything. I was too drunk.
posted by suckerpunch at 12:34 AM on August 31, 2005


Edit : all of their songs were about the Ninth Ward, I guess.
posted by suckerpunch at 12:35 AM on August 31, 2005


-- Right Place, Wrong Time, Dr. John
-- Do Watcha Wanna, Rebirth Brass Band
-- Just a Closer Walk with Thee, Every Dixieland Performer Alive

...and then, sadly, there's Joy by Lucinda Williams. Not exactly a New Orleans song per se, but she does talk about "going back to Slidell to look for my joy." I doubt there will be much of that in Slidell anytime soon.
posted by diastematic at 12:36 AM on August 31, 2005


Huh, I just recorded this as a microphone test (result: the microphone sucks almost as bad as I do).

The reason I chose that song is because it's one of my favorites when playing with our band, the Muddy Basin Ramblers, here in Taipei.
posted by Poagao at 1:02 AM on August 31, 2005


The James Booker cut of Junco Partner. Especially that last verse:

Bring me whisky, whisky, whisky, when I'm thirsty,
Bring me water, water, water, when I'm dry,
Bring me tobacco, when I'm sickly,
And a little heroin, just before I die,
With a little cocaine, a little cocaine on the side.

I guess old James would have been looting for beer as well...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:29 AM on August 31, 2005


"Adieu, adieu, fair maiden,
You ne'er shall see me more
And when you are thinking of the old times
And the cottage by the shore
And when I meet a sociable
With a glass of the foaming main
I'll drink good health to the Creole girl
By the Lake of Pontchartrain"

...Joel Plaskett's version's been stuck in my head all week.
posted by Tomatillo at 2:39 AM on August 31, 2005


j-dub, look up! This is the one time my encyclopedic knowledge/obsession with them has come in even remotely handy. I think my neighbours are getting annoyed...
posted by fionab at 4:08 AM on August 31, 2005


There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun...

Way down in Louisiana
Close to New Orleans
Way back up in the woods
Among the evergreens...

She's my red-hot Louisiana Mama
From a town called New Orleans...


Not quite as moving as some others, but worth tossing in the gumbo nonetheless.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:20 AM on August 31, 2005


I loved seeing that Randy Newman link in the original post colored as a visited link over here. I was considering posting those lyrics earlier in one of the hurricane threads.
posted by emelenjr at 4:49 AM on August 31, 2005


Also a version of SJIB by the White Stripes
posted by poppo at 4:53 AM on August 31, 2005


Great thread, mwhybark, because it makes me terribly sad and comforts me at the same time.

When I think of New Orleans music, I think of the Professor first and foremost. And something by the Neville Brothers is always on the list.

This seems like an appropriate song to throw into the mix.
Little Feat
Calling the Children Home
B. Payne, P. Barrere, and F. Tackett

uptown, the other side of canal
the funky butt hall down on liberty street
all day long it was the criminal morgue
where dead street boys take a load off ther feet

when the sun goes doen buddy bolden plays the blues
room full of sin, buckets of booze
how that horn could travel on a hot southern night
he was calling the children home all right
he was calling the children home

bury me down in new orleans
so I can spend eternity above ground
you can flood this town
but you can't shut the party down
ain't no drownin' the spirit
we callin' the children home

yeah that spasm band side show down in Jefferson Square
the band wagon battles ain't goin' no where
storyville girls tellin' tales in the night
how they bought all the bulls with a song

cocaine Lil, sweet miss thing
at the hotel y'all ring ding ding
poundin' the ivory's down at mahogany hall
they was callin' the children home
oh yeah, they was callin' the children home

bury me down in new orleans
so I can spend eternity above ground
you can flood this town
but you can't shut the party down
ain't no drownin' the spirit
callin' the children home

was it the paddle wheels of commerce make you move the president
or the insiders and outlaws sellin' snake oil from the tent
a fressh breath of honesty would sure be heaven sent
but politics is politics, the business is the rent

downtown people take to the streets
they checkin' the sounds, they lookin' to eat
britsens manales just a trolly away
you can tease your palate any time night or day

there was the night at tips, when the fess hit the keys
like a bomb goin' off, brought you down to your knees
Ernie K. Doe - Bobby Marchand -
Eddie Bo, don't forget Dr. John
they callin' the children home

bury me down in new orleans
so I can spend eternity above ground
you can flood this town
but you can't shut the party down
ain't no drownin' the spirit
we callin' the children home
ain't no drownin' the spirit
we callin' the children home
posted by madamjujujive at 5:20 AM on August 31, 2005


Nice thread.
posted by OmieWise at 5:25 AM on August 31, 2005


Have they started organizing the benefit concert yet? Dr John, no-brainer. The Meters/Nevilles. All under the self-righteous baton of Wynton Marsalis, of course.

Any other guesses on performers?
posted by the sobsister at 5:56 AM on August 31, 2005


Obscure, but sadly appropriate. I've been listening to Kermit Ruffins, "When I Die (You'd Better Second Line) the last couple days.
posted by idigress at 6:00 AM on August 31, 2005


I played "When the Levee Breaks" at high volume last night. Bonham scared the hell out of my cats.

And might I suggest the sublime "Down South in New Orleans" performed by Bobby Charles and The Band on The Band's "Last Waltz".
posted by Ber at 6:11 AM on August 31, 2005


Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?
posted by emf at 6:21 AM on August 31, 2005


Peter Rowan has a song Mississippi Moon

A wave on the ocean, a whirlwind on the sand
posted by Icky at 6:52 AM on August 31, 2005


The Meters version of Stormy or alternately their song The World is a Little Bit Under the Weather
posted by Pollomacho at 6:56 AM on August 31, 2005


Any other guesses on performers?

Galactic, Wild Magnolias, Buddy Guy, Rebirth/NewBirth, Radiators, Nathan's Zydeco Cha-Chas, Dirty Dozen, Red Stick Ramblers...

Oh, and please, Wynton can play with his brothers but his father will certainly be the director.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:04 AM on August 31, 2005


Tomatillo: ""Adieu, adieu, fair maiden,
You ne'er shall see me more
And when you are thinking of the old times
And the cottage by the shore
And when I meet a sociable
With a glass of the foaming main
I'll drink good health to the Creole girl
By the Lake of Pontchartrain"

...Joel Plaskett's version's been stuck in my head all week.
"


Same song here, although I've been hearing Paul Brady's.
posted by danb at 7:10 AM on August 31, 2005


"He met Marmalade down in old New Orleans
Struttin' her stuff on the street"

(I have had "City of New Orleans" and "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" stuck in my head.)
posted by SisterHavana at 7:24 AM on August 31, 2005


Oh, and I can't forget "I Love You Goodbye" by Thomas Dolby. Even more appropriate.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:28 AM on August 31, 2005


Benefit perfomers - C.J, Chenier is a must as a performer! Also Marcia Ball, Kenny Neal, Terrence Simien...
posted by madamjujujive at 7:58 AM on August 31, 2005


Basin Steet Blues (Quicktime), as performed Kid Koala.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 8:10 AM on August 31, 2005


No one's mentioned the Skorpions' one hit?
posted by klangklangston at 8:18 AM on August 31, 2005


I was driving along yesterday with The Veils' The Runaway Found playing, and was very abruptly struck by the lyrics of "The Valleys of New Orleans".

Someday the walls will tremble with terrible flames here
‘Til the mouth of some hurricane sweeps them away
And If I had either love or fortune I’d shed them both here
But those cards are so rarely played I’ve hid them away
The valleys of New Orleans
The valleys of New Orleans

posted by Saellys at 8:51 AM on August 31, 2005


"Feels Like Rain" by John Hiatt, though I like Buddy Guy + Bonnie Raitt's version even better.
The clouds roll in across the moon
And the wind howls out your name
And it feels like rain
And it feels like rain
We never going to make that bridge tonight baby
Across lake Ponchartrain
And it feels like rain
And it feels like rain
So batten down the hatch baby
And leave your heart up your sleeve
It looks like we're in for stormy weather,
That ain't no cause for us to leave
Just lay here, in my arms
Let it wash away the pain
And it feels like rain
And it feels like rain
posted by Vidiot at 9:06 AM on August 31, 2005


emf, Tomatillo, dunno how I missed those, thanks!

madam, I feel the same upon perusing this. We're all in a dim refraction of the Maple Leaf as this sounds washes over us, sipping drinks watered with the tears of the dead.

KK, for god's sake, now that's stuck in my head too!

Geez, label execs, if you're listenin', we already did the legwork, get that benefit CD out and into Starbucks pronto!
But please, use the recordings specified, not new versions.
posted by mwhybark at 11:08 AM on August 31, 2005


It's not about hurricanes or levees, but I've always found "New Orleans" by The Silver Jews to be a pretty spooky / intense kind of song:
I'm scared (I swear) of you. In the tunnel, in the darkness, the darkest walls of blue, there's beasts & ther's men & there's something on this earth that comes back again: Alpha...delta....gamma... everybody's smoked You can't say that my soul has died away(x2) There's trouble in the hall & trouble up the stairs & trouble in the trouble that's troubling the air. Please don't say that my soul has died away.

There is a house in New Orleans, not the one you've heard about. I'm talking about another house. They spoke of gold in the cellar that a Spanish gentleman had left. I broke in one hundred years ago with a dagger tucked in my vest. Legends of gold I've tried to hold in the grey half-lite of the halway at night....one....two... 3 4 5 we're trapped inside the song. We're trapped inside the song where the nights are so long. There's traps inside us all and the nights are so tall. And the night
is so tall. And the knife is so tall.
Crummy WMV video link here.
posted by idontlikewords at 11:37 AM on August 31, 2005


When the levy breaks?
posted by iamck at 1:17 PM on August 31, 2005


Here's an mp3 of the original When the Levee Breaks, by Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe, 1927.
posted by sklero at 2:42 PM on August 31, 2005


The levee in question--the one referred to in the song, that is--broke at Mounds Landing near Greenville, Miss., in the Miss. Delta, several hours north of New Orleans.
posted by raysmj at 4:33 PM on August 31, 2005


Great Post, indeed.

Sure, Tragically Hip, New Orleans Is Sinkin' [Tragically Hip] comes to mind immediately, but I blame it on Can con [Canadian content] radio. Somehow, that song doesn't portray the depth of the title song's incident. It's too much fun to sing, really.

After reading the thread from insomnia....Katrina targets New Orleans., the great article from maxparber [I got schooled on NO], Cold Chef's plight and flight.... to the money spent by the US administration [read Bush & buddies] to go to war, which was a bigger political op than addressing the terror at home.

I don't mean 9-11 incidents from abroad. I mean from those living in the USA, just barely, should you ignore their plight. Health Care, Education and that long standing Christian belief of all men [including women] being equal [in God's eyes, need I mention] that they keep mentioning, but doing nothing of the sort.

Or spending millions [what? to keep a bunch of poor people alive?] should the inevitable happen in New Orleans. A plan, such as shoring up levees, say? That just won't work to get re-elected.




I vote for Nappy Roots', Po'Folk. They're from Kentucky, but being poor has no boundaries.


Video.

Lyrics [you may need'em]:

Nappy Roots
Po' Folks


Awwww....
Mmmmm, awww..

[Chorus]
All my life been po'
But it really don't matter no mo'
And they wonder why we act this way
Nappy Boys gon' be okay
All my life been po'
But it really don't matter no mo'
And they wonder why we act this way
Nappy Roots gon' be okay, okay

[Big V]
We came in the game, plain ya see
Average man when the rest was ashamed to be
Nappy head and all, ain't no changin me
Ooooh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh...
So rough it was, downright wrong I tell ya
Nobody never gave us nothin but tough time and made us somethin
Different stretch of road, new somethin to see
Every state on the map, a different somethin to eat
Daps and handshakes, it meant nuttin for real
Everybody makin a killin man, showin no feelins
Walkin off collectin pay, it's the way of the world
Can't change it, so I guess I'm gon' pray for the world
Sometimes I ask myself, was I made for the world?
I scream this to you, and I say it to the world
Nappy then, Nappy now - Nappy for a bit
Knee-deep, head over heels in this country shit!

[Chorus]

[Skinny DeVille]
Even though I picture better days,
I'm thankful for the chance I got to say amen
The Lord done blessed me with his grace, I wish this day would never end
We represent the slums, where we from, we feel they bump
Polish shot off on these presidents, and hardtimes they go and come
Some take up off, without the chance, to make it at all
Who woulda thought Skinny'd be the one that's, makin this call
Lord, help me out, tell me where I went wrong
I'm tryna find a righteous path, although it's, never been long
I gotta do it for my sons, they tellin me, "Daddy be strong"
We gon' make it through these hardtimes
even though they go and they come
Ya absolutely right, for somethin happen to me on last Tuesday night
It's plain as day, man they... with this World Trade
Naw brave any order but confoldure
Better make it home when nothin seems to matter
That's when, see, everything can go - any which way
They got me fooled, see the Henny with the J
Front po'ch, chillin broke, country folk, I'm Nappy with my ways yo

[Chorus]

[R. Prophit]
It's a blessin we woke up this mornin
All my colored folk stressin, come let's join hands
Got the folk with depresses of being po' man
Poppa taught me an order, survive for no man
Nappy got some (?) for we gon' stand
Prophit grew from a juvenile to a grown man
Ya gotta take responsibility for ya own man
Zonin, two blunts a mo'nin, by sunrise sometimes
I love to hear my woman moanin, it's on again
Damn I hope you play this song again
The soul cleansin, the melody just read my end
Not a lot of things but usually just appendin my lady
Been searchin bendin and saw my folks locked in the tennants
And it don't make any sense (why) children and sentencin
Broadcastin from the slums, that's why I'm writin these sentences
Just lower my income, (what) though we ain't finish it

[Chorus]


Yah, that makes me sad. I hope for an enlightened future.
Peace and strength to those living through hell in New Orleans and environs through post Katrina times.

Note: 'post Katrina times' is not a newspaper.
posted by alicesshoe at 7:47 PM on August 31, 2005


They call it stormy monday
But tuesday's just as bad.
They call it stormy monday
But tuesday's just as bad.
Lord, and wednesday's worse
And thursday's all so sad.

The eagle flies on friday,
Saturday i go out to play.
The eagle flies on friday,
Saturday i go out to play.
Sunday i go to church,
Gonna kneel down and pray.

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy on me.
Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy on me.
Though i'm tryin' and tryin' to find my baby,
Won't someone please send her home to me.

(by Elmore James, performed by too many to count)
posted by scratch at 6:30 AM on September 1, 2005


++ Tom Waits
posted by nervousfritz at 12:13 PM on September 3, 2005


Checking out the Hype Machine via a search on "New Orleans" may prove interesting.
posted by mwhybark at 7:44 PM on September 3, 2005


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