[NOLA JAZZ FEST 2014] The AU Review's Top 5
Our good friends at the AU Review headed to New Orleans to soak up the music, soul food and southern hospitality during Jazz Fest. Although the festival lineup boasts an impressive list of known talent, they dug deep to discover those artists you may have not heard about...
Another year and another Jazz Fest has come and gone in New Orleans. With performances from the likes of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, John Fogerty, Robert Plant, Santana, Arcade Fire, Eric Clapton and a never-ending list of some of the world's finest talents, all who attended the seven day event will have some pretty incredible memories. But it's not all about the headliners. Jazz Fest organisers scour the city, the country and the world to deliver some of the finest lesser known talents alongside these big names. From local gospel groups, to up-and-coming Louisiana bands and the next-big-things from up North, there's always something to discover among the event's twelve stages.
Though I only attended three days of the festival this year, I made plenty of discoveries of my own. Here now are my five New Orleans Jazz Fest discoveries for 2014, in no particular order... though I will start with my favourite of the pack:
Out of all the bands I saw at Jazz Fest this year - at least of the ones I didn't know - Cardinal Sons were the standouts. The band comprise of three brothers from New Orleans who only have an EP under their belt at this stage, though seem to be gaining a healthy local following and have been winning some awards along the way (including the Mountain Stage NewSong Contest at the end of last year). They have one of the more contemporary sounds that we heard at the event, with comparisons drifting between established groups Band of Horses, Cold War Kids, Local Natives and Fleet Foxes, from song to song. Their music is well oiled, the band are tight and something tells me we're going to be hearing a lot more from the group in the years to come. Keep an eye and an ear out and check out one of the band's tracks below.
Next up is New Orleans native Andrew Duhon, an artist who definitely fits into the "sort of music" you expect to hear and discover at Jazz Fest. The guitarist and vocalist played a healthy dose of his own material, as well as covers of tracks like "Son of a Preacher Man", with a guest female vocalist (I didn't catch her name), accompanied by a keyboardist, drummer and someone on the upright bass. With a bit of a country vibe, and comparisons to artists like Ash Grunwald, the music was laid back and supported by an amazing voice from Duhon. Tracks like "Growing Older Now" were highlights and he had the crowd in the palm of his hands.
I probably wouldn't have seen this group had it not been for a chance recommendation on the taxi ride to the festival. They're a husband and wife duo in the vein of The Civil Wars or (The) Falls. Their vocals are beautiful - as you'd expect from such comparisons - though interestingly they sing with a similar falsetto, which sets them apart from others. Their voices intertwine and create some exceptional music, albeit of a radio friendly variety, to which they put it best themselves, "we're soft rocking your faces off here" . Their new album Diamonds was released this week in the US and I did sense a hint of Matt Corby in Abner Remirez's vocals - so fans of the Australian singer/songwriter should definitely give them a listen.
PINE LEAF BOYS
This four time Grammy nominated group from southwest Louisiana were one of the most entertaining acts I saw all weekend. Complete with keys, fiddle and a full band, the group brought along a healthy party atmosphere on the Fais Do Do Stage (one of my favourites at the festival and pictured in the photo I took up the top of this article). They self describe themselves as "bringing Cajun music to the bandstand", but to put that in perspective, there's a lot of country in there, some swing as well, and a bit of flair that could only come from the locals. Notable is the fact that a lot of the music they're playing are obscure Cajun songs from the past, and "old fashion dance hall standards", though they do so in such a way that they're indeterminable of their origin. Their music really could be from any era, past, present or future. At an event where a lot of the bands have a similar vibe, this group stood above the pack with a unique feel and some damn catchy tunes: be they old standards or otherwise.
OK, so I'm reaching a bit here with the word "discovery" for this celebrated artist. Hell, he's already a "legend" to those in the know. But before this weekend at Jazz Fest, I couldn't have counted myself among the rest. Launching onto the stage in an oversized cowboy hat, with his long, silver hair flowing out, the 70 year old Blues musician got it done in the Blues Tent on his beautiful electric guitar. Covers like "Gimme Shelter" were stunning, while for some of his own material, it felt like I may have been the only one who was unfamiliar with the material! Rest assured I wont be making that mistake again. The guy is incredible.