JOHN BOUTTE / “Sisters”

Get a fish and shrimp po boy and go sit on St. James / I’m a player like my ol’ boy, that’s where I get game — Juvenile, from “What’s Happenin’ ”
It’s almost a year later and I’m still getting forwarded mail from New Orleans. The junk mail and magazines stopped a long time ago, but every once in a while, I still get business correspondence. The other day, I got a letter from Securian Retirement Services, some partially-mportant, partially-forgettable update about some IRA thing I have somewhere. What is notable about the letter is the hand-written note above the computer-generated ‘Notify Sender Of New Address’ sticker. It reads
It took me a while to figure out that ‘F.O.’ means ‘friend of,’ but even before I got that part straight, the note made me smile. I’m fairly certain that it’s against U.S. Post Office employment regulations to deface mail (not to mention a violation of federal law, in all likelihood), but who cares, really? It was just one New Orleans person to another, saying, “Come back home!” john boutte.jpg A few days later, my iTunes randomizer thing landed on “Sisters” by John Boutté. Then I really started thinking about home. John Boutté is an R&B/jazz singer from New Orleans. He’s well known in the Gulf Coast area, but nationally he’s probably not as well known as his famous singing sister, Lillian, who, as John’s lyrics tell us, is only one of four Boutté sisters whose name happens to start with ‘L.’ From the Professor Longhair-esque piano to the rollicking sound of the snare drum to the complete lack of artifice in the lyrics (“when I was in trouble you was right there bitchin’”), “Sisters” is 100% New Orleans…in a good way. I specify because nowadays so much of what New Orleans is seems to be tied to that damn hurricane. When I lived in California the first time around (from about ’99-’04), people would hear my accent and ask where I was from. I’d say, “New Orleans.” They’d brighten up and say, “Oh! Mardi Gras. Bourbon Street. Jazz Fest.” Or just, “Nice party town.” None of it was what New Orleans really was, of course, but it was always something good. These days, their face falls, and they say, “Oh. I’m sorry.” Or, “That’s really too bad.” It’s not a good feeling when the mere mention of your hometown elicits condolences. juvenile.jpg Yesterday, I stopped in a shoe store to pick up a couple of t-shirts. The store’s XM Radio was tuned to a hip-hop station. They played a couple of underground records, which were decent, then a new Too Short song, which was also surprisingly good, then they played Juvenile’s “What’s Happenin’.” That one made me smile too. Not just because I got to hear a little piece of New Orleans from so many miles away, but also because I hadn’t noticed before that “What’s Happenin’” is a tribute to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Posse On Broadway.” The kid behind the counter saw me laughing and asked me if I thought Juvenile was funny. “No,” I told him, “But this is a Sir Mix-A-Lot thing.” He looked at me with no expression. “Posse On Broadway,” I said. He still didn’t react. “You know, Seattle? Riding on the strip in the limo? The girls?” Nothing. It wasn’t until I was back at home that I realized it—“Posse On Broadway” was a hit back in the summer of ’87. That kid might not’ve been born yet. I have one more New Orleans smile for you. There’s a band out of New York named The El Michels Affair. They’re kind of a throw-back funk band—reminiscent of the days when studio musicians made instrumental albums, like Booker T & The MG’s or, more to our point, New Orleans’-own The Meters. El Michels’ “Ocho Rios” is a jangly tangle of sloppy horn lines and chicken-scratching guitar that sounds like it has one foot in the slums of Trinidad and the other right in the middle of Uptown New Orleans. “Ocho Rios” is also a dead-ringer for Meters instrumentals like "Look-Ka Py Py."   meters.jpg Whenever I hear Art, George, Leo and especially my man Zigaboo, I get memories of my hometown—good, strong memories. Like the seafood, the humidity, the parades, the beans and rice and the prevalence of black people, “Look-Ka Py Py” is just another example of why some people say that New Orleans is the Northern-most city of the Caribbean. And it’s music like “Sisters,” “What’s Happenin’,” and “Look-Ka Py Py” that—despite everything that’s happened since August 29th of last year—keeps me smiling when I think of my city. —Mtume ya Salaam Songs: John Boutté – “Sisters” (from At The Foot Of Canal Street, Valley - 1999) Professor Longhair – “Go To The Mardi Gras” (from We Got A Party, Rounder - 1988) Juvenile – “What’s Happenin’ ” (from Reality Check, Atlantic – 2006) Sir Mix-A-Lot – “Posse On Broadway” (from Swass, American - 1988) The El Michels Affair – “Ocho Rios” (from Sounding Out The City, Truth & Soul – 2006) The Meters – “Look-Ka Py Py” (from Look-Ka Py Py, Rounder – 1990)             Not yet          You know I hate to say it, but say it I will. The city is not ready right now. We've still got a long, long way to go. I don't advise anyone to return right now if: 1. you don't have a place to stay locked down, or 2. you don't have a job locked down (unless, of course, you're working in construction), or 3. you have any serious medical issues, or 4. you have school aged-children. Other than that, yeah, come on down. —Kalamu ya Salaam P.S. That John Boutté is an inspired choice. Thank your iPod for me.

This entry was posted on Sunday, August 20th, 2006 at 12:52 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

| top |