Galactic is a staple of the New Orleans music scene, playing a blend of funk and jazz jam band music. Ok, so let’s start this review off by saying this is not a blues album. Not because I’m some sort of purist, but because it’s just not a blues album. It perhaps has basis in the blues but it certainly is a mish mash of New Orleans jazz and funk, and there is some very cool stuff here. It’s just not blues.
The CD starts off with a vibrant, horn-forward instrumental called “Sugar Doosie” and if that doesn’t get the blood flowing then nothing will. JJ Grey then appears on “Higher and Higher,” which is pretty much straight up soul and funk mixed with some modernistic siren noises but very cool in and of itself. Macy Gray lends support to “Into the Deep,” a somewhat blues influenced jazz and rock ballad that she grits and growls out. “Dolla Diva” features David Shaw and Maggie Koerner and it is straight out hip hop laid on New Orleans funk. “Long Live the Borgne” is a heavy instrumental funk tune with a huge bass groove, outer space B-movie electronic sounds and a killer organ lead. Back on earth, “Right On” features Ms. Charm Taylor from the group Honorable South. Hip hop and pop are the order of the day; she has a really unique vocal presence.
“Domino” features Ryan Montbleau, a Boston based folk, blues, funk and American singer. He’s got another interesting voice and this funk tune showcases it well; this is probably my favorite cut. “Buck 77” is an huge, effect laden instrumental that reminds me of an amalgam of current horror movie soundtracks and New Orleans funk. Strangely, it works well. Mavis Staples then joins in for “Does It Really Make a Difference.” The music takes a turn back into the realm of reality with Mavis delivering a fine performance on this song of relationships overlooking the little things. Here we have blues and soul done with emotion and feeling. The song builds from a level of restraint to a set of bigger instrumental solos and then Mavis comes back with more of a vengeance. She then takes it down for the final verse and then sings the chorus where she and the instrumental backing take the song out nicely. Brushy One String is the artist featured on “Chicken in the Corn.” In reality he is Andrew Chin, son of Jamaican artist Freddie McKay. He is known for his guitar work, including a one-stringed guitar that he takes his name from. Here we have a funk tune with him in the lead and Galactic providing great instrumental support. The CD closes to “Todays Blues,” a soulful instrumental that is very blues centric in its’ approach and tone. The organ plays the lead here and it sings to us as be sway to the groove. This is a beautiful, sedate number that showcases the band playing with restraint again and yet delivering some expressive music.
Now in their 21st year together, Galactic’s 11th CD is their first on Provogue and it’s a good one. Not for blues purists, but it is something for those who like a modernistic approach to New Orleans music that chas evolved into using hip hop, funk and jazz to deliver a great sound. Robert Mercurio, Jeff Raines, Richard Vogel, Stanton Moore, Ben Ellman and Corey Henry are the current lineup of the band; if you ae a fan this is something you’ll want to own. If you want to hear how todays’ sounds blend with the sound of New Orleans, you should also pick this one up. It’s different than your standard blues and it may take a listen or two to grow on you, but it’s worth the effort.