Music

Walter: Doin' the Funky Thing

A gumbo of southern soul, jazz, funk, and urban blues that makes you want to get up and grind the night away, and a triumphant tribute to the battered city of New Orleans.


Walter

Doin' the Funky Thing

Label: Zoho Roots
US Release Date: 2008-06-10
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

A month after Hurricane Katrina left its devastating mark on the people and city of New Orleans, Walter "Wolfman" Washington walked out on stage at the legendary Maple Leaf nightclub with his backing band the Roadmasters and, in front of a national media scrum, played the first mass audience gig in the Crescent City since that fateful August night. For a blues singer who had been playing innovative guitar on the club circuit for years -- skillfully backing Lee Dorsey on some of his biggest hits including 1965's "Ride Your Pony" and the following year's seminal cut "Working in the Coal-Mine", not to mention the Wolfman's 20-year musical association with the late, great vocalist Johnny "the Tan Canary" Adams -- the attention came as something of a surprise. According to the Wolf, "We were in Ohio, by my sister-in-law's. And the Maple Leaf called and told us they were opening and wanted to bring the music back ... I said: Let's go. I didn't realize at the time that I was the first one to come back. I just wanted to come home".

Since then, Washington has been kept busy with New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin proclaiming April 30th Walter "Wolfman" Washington Day. Meanwhile, his latest album, Doin' the Funky Thing, heralds the belated return of this soulful bluesman to the recording studio after a decade-long absence. A gumbo of southern soul, jazz, funk, and urban blues spread over 10 original compositions that not only makes you want to get up and grind the night away as the opener "Shake Your Booty/Funky Thing Part 1" provocatively suggests, but also contains four excellent songs full of hope for the battered city and a rallying call for its citizens.

The first in the cycle, "I'm Back", is a languid jazz-funk number with Washington's weathered blues growl calling out "We're going to bring New Orlean back" as Dr. John guests on Hammond B3 organ producing a fetid, swampy groove. "Crescent City Starlights" has a Memphis Soul swagger with sweetly blowing horns rising above the Wolfman's vocals as the optimistic cry for rejuvenation, "Like a tree coming back to life", continues the theme. "Landslide" (not to be confused with the late Tony Clark's mid-'60s Northern Soul classic) is a deceptively upbeat number describing the aftermath of Katrina as a claustrophobic pitch black night draws near and curfew looms. But it's the subtle lyrics, written by the last original Roadmaster, bassist John "Jack" Cruz, and detailing the easy loss of a happy-go-lucky life once taken for granted, on the rousing soul number "Just Like That" which hit home the hardest.

Elsewhere, Washington continues to work it like a wolf howling at the moon and stalking the beat on the funky, wah-wah bass-line trippin' "Tweakin'", the deep soul crooner "Only You" with its stabs of exultant horns, and the bookend closer "Shake Your Booty/Funky Thing Part II" which returns this fine album to whence it came: grinding it out on the dance floor.

Finally, Walter "Wolfman" Washington was caught in the glare of the spotlight and a funky ambassador stepped up to get down and shine in the process. A welcome return, indeed.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
8

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image