12 songs – 48 minutes
The sounds of New Orleans are alive and well far north of the Crescent City. Several bands across the Midwest deliver the syncopated sounds of the deep South. But few ensembles internationally venture into the territory of the Funky Butt Brass Band, a unit that calls the south side of St. Louis home.
Practicing an art form that dates to the 1800s and remains a popular feature of a traditional New Orleans funeral, the brass band format features the sousaphone in place of the upright bass and utilizes a full-fledge horn section to drive the music home. Funky Butt is a six-piece band that includes Aaron Chandler on trombone and vocals, Adam Hucke on trumpet, toy piano and vocals, Ben Reece on saxophone and vocals, Matt Brinkmann on sousaphone, Tim Halpin on guitar and vocals, and Ron Sikes on drums and percussion. With several previous releases to their credit, they demonstrate respect for the format. At the same time, however, they attempt to imprint the music with a taste of the quirky nature of life along the Mississippi a short walk down river from the Gateway Arch.
They’re joined here by several special guest artists from their hometown, including Dave Grelle (keyboards), Bob Lohr (piano), Matt Henry (percussion), Tom Martin (accordion), Thayne Bradford (fiddle), Phil Wright (harmonica), Cody Henry (trombone), Bob Bennett (tenor sax), Aaron Lehde (baritone sax), Brian Casserly (trumpet), Big Mike Aguirre (slide guitar), Tandra Williams and Erminie Cannon (background vocals) and the Virginia Avenue Choir, which includes Damon Mitchell, Alexia Rowe, Dione Kerney, Krystle Grinston and Tiffany Woods-Jones.
This album consists of nine Funky Butt originals as well as three covers – two New Orleans standards and a gospel classic done like you’ve probably never heard it before.
A horn flourish kicks off “Sugar Sugar Whomp Whomp,” which features Grelle on the keys and Halpin on an extended guitar solo. “Funk In The Trunk” delivers a rapid-fire, rap-style vocal message atop a beat that swings from the jump. The uptempo Dave Bartholomew penned “Yours Truly” follows, giving Lohr a chance to step out on piano, aided by a trumpet solo.
Next up, is a cover of Professor Longhair’s “Tipitina,” delivered with gusto and true New Orleans feel. The original “Orange Crush” is targeted at a woman who delivered goosebumps at the first touch, and delivers the message: “If I were an orange/You would be my crush./Ooh baby I just love you so much.” It leads into “Release Me,” a slow blues lament in which the singer needs to let go by the woman who’s basically ruined his life. The mood changes abruptly for “Dirty Up,” another bit of funk in which the singer “Can’t get enough/Of your lovin’ stuff.”
The band shifts gears slightly for South Side Suite. It’s composed of four tunes that Funky Butt uses to deliver the feel of St. Louis below Poplar Street Bridge. First up is the Cajun-flavored “Down Broadway To The Oyster Bar.” It’s message: “No need to go/Down to Bourbon Street/To hear a brass band/Or to catch a few beads.” A funky rap, “South Side Swamp,” follows and leads into “River Despair,” a complaint about the intense summer heat, and “Saint Lou Bliss,” which praises summer picnics, pork steaks and snoots, barbequed pig snouts, a local favorite. The disc concludes with a New Orleans funeral favorite, a stirring, horn- and chorus-fueled take on the A.E. Brumley gospel standard, “I’ll Fly Away.”
Available through CDBaby, Amazon and iTunes. If you’re a fan of bands like Bonerama, you’ll like this one. It’ll definitely put a bounce in your step and a smile on your face.