Soggy Po’ Boys – All in Favor
12 songs, 40 minutes
New Orleans is the fertile basin of all things funky and syncopated; mixing Caribbean rhythms, R&B, Jazz, Indigenous People’s Folk music, Blues and everything in between. There are so many great bands that keep the New Orleans’ torch lit and so many inspired by it all around the world. From the cold North Eastern tundra of Derry, New Hampshire comes a group of young people so inspired: the Soggy Po’ Boys. Born out of a Tuesday night jam (which they still hold down 8 years later), the Po’ Boys (or should we call them the Soggies?) hit all the traditional acoustic notes of early to mid 20th Century New Orleans Ragtime, Jazz, Blues and Second Line. Their fourth album All in Favor is a covers only, live in the studio, collection of their most swinging and hard hitting live repertoire.
The Soggy Po’ Boys’ music is an old-timey riot of ensemble horns, funkified rhythm, strolling piano and transcendent husky singing. What distinguishes this band and adds legitimacy is the three piece horn section of Eric Klaxton on clarinet and soprano saxophone, Zach Lange on trumpet and Nick Mainella on tenor saxophone. These horn players do the chaotic, talking-over-each-other group improvisation of New Orleans so well. They then smash the discord right back down on the 1 beat and hit lush harmonically expansive passages. Brett Gallo on drums and Scott Kiefner on upright bass give the music depth and deep wooden funk. All brush work and hot jazz thump, this rhythm section never sounds antiquated and never drops the pulse.
The real secret weapons of the Po’ Boys is Mike Effenberger on piano and Stu Dias on vocals and acoustic guitar. Effenberger is the glue that pulls the rhythm section and the horn section together. With tasteful yet expansive playing, Effenberger is one of those spellbinding players who has a strong unique musical voice within a possibly overwrought tradition. The true MVP of the band is the selfless and highly musical singer Stu Dias. At times brash and all encompassing and then withholding and coquet-ish, Dias conveys depth and maturity in his singing that belies his youth. The quality of his voice is so muscular and ragged yet warm and engaging it is impossible not to be drawn into his performances. Truly the cherry on the top of an irresistible ice cream sundae soaked in a whisky Sazerac.
The song selection of All in Favor is a primer in what makes New Orleans, New Orleans: Caribbean chants of “Gin and Coconut Water;” Ragtime explosions of “Shag:” R&B balladry when “It’s Raining;” classic stalwarts “My Indian Red;” instrumentals al la Louis Armstrong’s Hot 5’s and 7’s that are “Hotter Than That;” religious balms like “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho;” and, possibly most appealing to the die hard 12 bar Blues lover, the haunting minor key lament of “Lotus Blossom.”
The Soggy Po’ Boys get it right. They are authentic but not shackled by tradition. Not only do they breathe life and their own personal sound into these covers, the Po’ Boys write, and record on previous albums, their own original material inspired by their chosen aesthetic. This is a creative, highly proficient bunch of musicians who are master technicians and historians and unique artists with perspective. Go see the Soggy Po’ Boys when they are in your town, or better yet, hit Derry on a random Tuesday and get your soul straightened out!