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Adam McCullough’s thoughts and Susan Weiand’s photos from an amazing second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
About Cowboy Mouth
Fred LeBlanc [drums/vocals]
Paul Sanchez [guitar/vocals]
John Thomas Griffith [guitar/vocals]
Sonia Tetlow [bass/vocals]
For more than 15 years, the members of the New Orleans-based band Cowboy Mouth have embraced, embodied, preached and shouted the joys of their hometown, sharing a slice of Mardi Gras heaven with fans around the world.
Their 11th recording, Voodoo Shoppe (Eleven Thirty Records), is their most critically acclaimed album to date. The Pittsburgh Tribune stated, Long known for live shows, the band has just released “Voodoo Shoppe,” an album which comes close to matching the group’s high-voltage performances. They go on to say, Every song seems to have one irresistible hook to draw in listeners. The Boston Phoenix called it, Inspiring stuff, and still a hell of a party record.
Voodoo Shoppe has been the focus of Cowboy Mouths 2006 tour, which has taken the band from coast to coast. Their legendary live shows, which to date have been witnessed by more than 8 million fans, were captured best by Cake magazine when it noted: “…on a bad night theyll tear the roof off the joint and on a good night theyll save your soul.”
The release of Voodoo Shoppe, like Mardi Gras itself, signified a revival of spirits for the band and their fans, as well as a resurrection of the free-spirited music that has always been intrinsic to both Cowboy Mouth and their city. The success of the album led to a performance of the Hurricane Katrina-inspired tune The Avenue on the Ellen Degeneres show, which in turn propelled the album to the top of Amazon.coms sales charts in the weeks which followed.
Recorded first in New Orleans and then completed in Atlanta with producers Mark Bryan (of Hootie and the Blowfish) and Russ T. Cobb (Avril Lavigne, Butch Walker) as Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, including several band members homes, Voodoo Shoppe is without a doubt Cowboy Mouths most dynamic, hard-hitting and emotionally charged album to date. The lead track, Joe Strummer, has turned into a fan-favorite, with its fast fist-in-the-air punk flare and blistering dual guitar attack from John Thomas Griffith and Paul Sanchez, while the powerhouse vocals of Fred LeBlanc tell of a girlfriend who simply had to go cause she didnt know who Joe Strummer was. Meanwhile, the title track, Voodoo Shoppe, with its soul shuffling rhythms reminiscent of a parading band on a French Quarter avenue, is proof that Cowboy Mouth, as Peter Holsapple (dBs, The Continental Drifters) once said, never could be from anywhere else.
While the majority of the album was written prior to Katrina, songs such as the poignantly solemn The Avenue and the hauntingly soulful Home were written immediately in the wake of the storm that tore through band members homes and hearts. Both songs possess the raw emotion, in lyrics and music, one would expect as the band members contemplated lives lost and familiar streets that were all but washed away.
But just as Cowboy Mouth has always done in the face of adversity, they shine light on better days sure to come, with The Avenue optimistically and defiantly declaring that the parades will ride again, and Home, making it known that they will all go back to where the good times roll. And fittingly, the latter is followed by Glad to Be Alive, a mercilessly upbeat pop number that puts to song what has become a Cowboy Mouth mantra: Get your head out of your hands / Scream and shout like you were five / Are you glad to be alive?
And indeed, Cowboy Mouths Fred LeBlanc, Paul Sanchez, John Thomas Griffith and Sonia Tetlow are, as they’ve always said, glad to be alive, and glad to be in a band they call Cowboy Mouthperhaps now more than ever. Because despite enduring what was no doubt been the bands most trying yearand thats saying a lot for a group thats been going at it for more than a decade and a half nowthe four have not only managed to survive, but they have thrived, and have never been prouder of the music they’re making than they are now with their new album “Voodoo Shoppe.”