In honor of Mardi Gras, may I make a slightly ungracious request?
As I do most every weekend, I was listening to Nick Spitzer’s American Routes on my local public radio affiliate (WHYY-FM). I love that show. As I’ve mentioned before, Spitzer is one of my favorite music-show hosts. He can turn me onto just about any American music style short of that Louisiana style of accordion music that quickly grates on my nerves. (Who’s the hero of that scene, Clifton Chenier?)
Being based in Louisiana and a fan of that state’s great music traditions, not a week goes by that Spitzer doesn’t surprise me with a good song by a band I’d rejected long ago in my angry youth. Take The Neville Brothers and The Meters. I’m not averse to all music from the state of Louisiana by any means, but the stuff I came of age associating with drunken white party boys trying to get their groove on in college (same as my initial beef with Bob Marley’s music, which I’ve learned to love, in some cases) did nothing for me. Spitzer can set up a Meters song, however, and almost always turn me on. (Let me know, Nick, if you are not receiving the Turn-On points due you.)
This past weekend Spitzer played, appropriately, a Mardi Gras-themed show. I stopped partying long before I ever had the chance to get caught up on the bacchanalia of the holiday. When I did party, it was Mardi Gras every day, if I could manage it. This explains why my party needed to come to a quick and decisive close. I never felt a great need to cut loose in my late teens and early 20s: I was untethered. These days, I am who I am. As a result, I feel I’m at a serious disadvantage in ever enjoying the themes of Mardi Gras music.
Songs about looking forward to dancing and drinking spur little reaction in me. I love to eat, but I’ve also been uninhibited about that on a regular basis. I’ll have a bowl of jumbalaya, but it’s time I pass on seconds. All those songs about “Iko Iko” and “Giacomo” (never spelled like that, though, is it?) do nothing for me. Then there are the voodoo-themed songs. He played some song that started off incredibly strong, with a killer bass, drum, and horn intro that made me feel like dancing. Then the vocals took a turn into some kind of voodoo chant about the Zulu King that took me out of the moment. The song was “(Talkin’ About the) Zulu King,” by James & Troy Andrews with Donald Harrison Jr. & Big Chief Monk Boudreaux. It’s really great, if you can overlook the lyrics.
Man, I don’t believe in voodoo, the devil, and anything like that. The only mystical stuff I fall for involves super-positive and cosmic hippie visions like “San Franciscan Nights.” I love the rhythms of New Orleans music and how they’ve been dispersed into rock ‘n roll, but the party and voodoo themes of Mardi Gras music bum me out. Can anyone suggest a Mardi Gras-themed song that won’t make me feel like I’m surrounded by people who could just as easily be digging Jimmy Buffet albums? Can anyone free my ass from the chains of my way-too-focused mind?
I look forward to your healing mojo powers.