Soggy Po Boys – Smoke
10 songs – 41 minutes
Sometimes, a new album lands on one’s turntable that is enchanting, alluring and altogether life-affirming. Smoke, the new album from the New Hampshire-based Soggy Po Boys, is one such release. The Soggy Po Boys are a seven-piece band who, over the course of their long-term Tuesday night residency in their home town of Dover, NH, have refined and reworked their New Orleans-inspired music to produce a vibrant collection of primarily self-written songs, all played with verve, abandon and lashings of Louisiana flavor.
The band comprises Eric Klaxton on clarinet and soprano saxophone, Zach Lange on trumpet, Nick Mainella on tenor saxophone, Stu Dias on guitar and vocals, Mike Effenberger on piano, Nick Phaneuf on upright bass and Brett Gallo on drums. All the instrumentation is acoustic, although the band kicks up enough fun and frolics to wake the dead.
The only covers on the album are the traditional “Pani Ti Moun” and “Nearer My God To Three/In The Gloaming”, interestingly credited to Mason/Harrison, although “Nearer My God To Thee” was originally composed by Sarah Flower Adams in 1841.
The album opens with “So Simple”, which kicks off with Gallo’s funky percussion before Diar raises the philosophical conundrum: “If it all were so simple, would it still be worth it now?” The rest of the band then pile in, in classic New Orleans style, playing subtly different parts and cleverly nuanced rhythms, while Klaxton lays down the first of many fine solos on clarinet. Each of the horns individually takes a line on the head to “Answers For Sale” on which Diar adopts a Louis Armstrong-esque growl, before the pace relents slightly with the lament of “I Hardly Knew Her”, with another fine drum rhythm from Gallo. The toe-tapping “Yeah Alright OK” leads neatly into the first two instrumentals on the album: the Latin-flavoured “Pani Ti Moun” and the swinging “Carmona A.D.”
“Nearer My God To Thee” is played without lyrics before the band picks up the rhythm and tempo as it segues into an almost unrecognizable but charming “In The Gloaming”, where Effenberger’s delightful piano takes the spotlight. Effenberger also leads off “Ether Rag”, which again features some fine solos from Klaxton, Lange and Mainella. The classic second line beat of “Meet Me at the Funeral” ensures Smoke finishes on a surprisingly uplifting note, given the lyrical content of the song.
Smoke was recorded at The Noise Floor in Dover, NH, by Lu Rojas, and mastered by Bruce Barielle in New Orleans. Both deserve credit for capturing a very live sound, whilst ensuring that each instrument remains clearly discernible.
With a dash of jazz, some old Dixieland, a hint of blues, a spoonful of Cuban, and a nod or two to more modern masters such as the Meters, Smoke is a very impressive release from a band that deserves to be more widely known. Well worth investigating by anyone who enjoys the classic sounds of New Orleans. Wonderful stuff.