New Orleans Parade

TV: Treme — Can I highly recommend a new series sight unseen? Easily when it’s the new HBO show created by David Simon, the man behind the best series ever on television, The Wire. He loves the American city, its landscape and the characters to be found within it. The Wire captured the brutal beauty of the Baltimore ghetto, the teeming life found in what seems to be a dying municipality, and the humanity of characters who engage in evil acts. So what better place for Simon to turn his attention next than New Orleans three months after Hurricane Katrina? The current trailer as I write this only shows scenes of the Crescent City — and ultimately in Simon’s work (which includes HBO’s The Corner as well as the book that the NBC TV show Homicide: Life on the Street was based on, and for which Simon was a writer and producer) — the city itself is the biggest star. His gift for engaging and compelling characters is well proven, and Treme will also undoubtedly capture the unique and vivid cultural stew that is New Orleans and its wondrous music (look for Kermit Ruffins, Allen Toussaint and members of its best brass bands). If Treme isn’t a masterpiece, I’ll make a meal of every printed copy of this column. (You read it here first!) Premieres April 11.

Books: The Year Before the Flood: A Story of New Orleans and The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square by Ned Sublette — I’m proud to call Sublette a longtime friend, as few people can write about music and its cultural and historical contexts with his skill, heart and understanding. And countless critics agree with words of praise well beyond what I say. These two superb and eminently readable works make a perfect companion to Treme and essential works for anyone who loves the music of New Orleans.

CD: Timeless by Bobby Charles — The man who wrote “Walking to New Orleans” and a slew of other classic songs, Robert Charles Guidry, died in January at age 71. Though he scored his first hit in 1955 with his recording of “Later Alligator,” Charles preferred to remain in the background as Fats Domino, Muddy Waters, Joe Cocker, Delbert McClinton, Clarence “Frogman” Henry and others etched his compositions into musical history, and in recent years lived a quiet and rather reclusive existence in Southern Louisiana. He recorded this last album of new songs just before his passing, with Dr. John co-producing the sessions that featured a number of his home state’s most soulful players. Though Charles didn’t play a musical instrument, his musicality was rich and organic, and his songs are among some of the finest in the real American music idiom. The title to his farewell album makes its best review.

From The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2010


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