Galactic drummer Stanton Moore has had a big year. His band’s superb Ya-Ka-May album was widely praised, and the band has been flying high live with the frequent addition of the legendary Cyril Neville on lead vocals. But Moore also has a new Stanton Moore Trio album out with Groove Alchemy, where he stages a clinic of funk drumming. Then he produced the new album American Patchwork from fellow New Orleans musician Anders Osborne.
So it’s a natural fit for Moore and Osborne to do some touring together, with Moore’s trio opening the show before serving as Osborne’s backing band for set two. It’s a double bonus for fans of New Orleans music, of which there are many in Austin. Moore is animated from the moment he and guitarist Will Bernard and keyboardist Wil Blades take the stage. “We’ve been looking forward to this show,” says Moore. And why not? It’s a chance to share the stage with a good friend in one of the few towns with a music scene that can rival that of the Big Easy.
The trio opens with the hard-charging “Potlicker” from Groove Alchemy and it catalyzes an immediate dance party that pretty much lasts all night. Moore’s up-tempo beat makes for a great groove, with Blades’ organ providing the lead voice on top of funky comping from Bernard. Another tune features some sweet slide guitar from Bernard followed by a dazzling drum break by Moore, before turning back around into a powerful surge from Blades’ organ.
Bernard’s song “Neeps and Tatties” provides a bluesy acid jazz workout for the trio that is reminiscent of Galactic’s sound, and it’s obvious there are many shared influences. Bernard tears off a psychedelic wah-wah solo that hits the mark to give the jam an extra boost. Bernard’s “Layer Cake” is another winner, with the organ and guitar once again building an infectious groove on top of Moore’s snazzy drumming.
Moore introduces another tune as being from The Meters, the legendary New Orleans funk titans that gave Galactic their template. “Go buy all their albums, you won’t be disappointed,” says Moore to anyone who might not know of the group. The Meters’ “Funky Miracle” makes a strong case, with Moore throwing down a crisp beat to generate another super funky jam and Bernard ripping a hot guitar solo for extra emphasis. The trio keeps the New Orleans vibe strong in the set-closing “Late Night at the Maple Leaf”, dedicated to one of Moore’s favorite New Orleans clubs. The funky jam cranks the groovy energy up to top level before the set break, where the trio offers to sign items at the merch table.
The Swedish-born Anders Osborne took to New Orleans in the mid-80s and has been working out of Louisiana ever since, where his penchant for blues and funk fit right in. When Galactic printed up a guide to New Orleans for 2010 Jazzfest attendees, Moore cited Osborne in his “who’s who of New Orleans musicians”, saying “Great singer, songwriter and guitar player.”
These three talents become immediately apparent with the set’s opening song, “On the Road to Charlie Parker”. Osborne and Moore had made an in-studio musical appearance at Austin’s KUT the previous day, where Osborne described the song as being about getting himself together. The powerful rocker lights a fuse, with Moore’s drumming serving as a perfect backbeat for Osborne’s bluesy vocals and riffs. An extended jam features some smoking slide guitar from Osborne, as it becomes clear that this is indeed a musician with considerable skills. There is a presence about him that just exudes blues authenticity and full immersion in the music.
Osborne shifts gears with “Got Your Heart”, a mid-tempo major key tune with a bit of a reggae sound and an uplifting vibe about conquering any and all obstacles. It’s refreshing to hear someone rock a deep bluesy jam and then follow it with a melodic one like this, since so many artists seem to feel they have to do only or the other these days. Osborne leads an extended jam over a sublime groove with some sweet psychedelic licks bathed in ambient reverb.
“Burning on the Inside” is another highlight, with Osborne’s riffs serving as the foundation for a syncopated rocker and a triumphant jam that sparks the crowd. The strong organ work from Blades and the crisp but loose drumming from Moore also recall a bit of a Jerry Garcia Band vibe. Osborne’s melodic riffs don’t hurt either, although there’s maybe more of an Allman Brothers influence there. Either way, Osborne demonstrates a diverse grasp on classic rock lead guitar throughout the night.
The Moore Trio departs in the middle of the set as Osborne performs a few tunes as a solo troubador. “Summertime in New Orleans” has the gentle vibe of a lazy day in the Crescent City, but with Osborne delivering some heartfelt vocals that suggest a deeper context. When the trio returns, the band gets back to rocking with a strong Led Zep vibe. The song seems to blend some Led Zeppelin II-style blues guitar with some heavy Physical Graffitti-style percussion for a stellar jam. Another great jam has more of a Southern rock flavor, mixed with some swampy Bayou blues.
The consistently high quality of both the performance and the songs begs the question why Anders Osborne isn’t a more well-known commodity on the music scene. But at least we have Stanton Moore to thank for helping to up that awareness factor with this tour. The encore sees Osborne close out the show with an old school blues tune with a great echoey slide guitar solo that recalls the Led Zeppelin I blues that Jimmy Page pinched from blues legends of yore. For a mix of classic blues with some modern jam rock and strong songwriting, Anders Osborne has to be near the top of the list of current performers.