Putumayo Presents Louisiana Gumbo

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The folks at Putumayo got it right on this one. The easiest trap to fall into when putting together a Louisiana compilation is to go for the tourist stuff — the Dixieland jazz , the second-line horn bands, or zydeco. There’s nothing the matter with any of those traditions, but they’re so obvious. What this compilation focuses on is New Orleans R&B, a tradition as rich as the others but not unique to the area and therefore not typically marketed aggressively by chambers of commerce and travel agencies. Louisiana Gumbo starts off strong, with Charles Sheffield’s “It’s Your Voodoo Working” and the even better “Door Poppin'” by Carol Fran and Clarence Holliman — and then it gets even better. The late pianist James Booker is at his best on the spicy “African Gumbo” (the secret ingredient of which is the legendary drummer John Boudreaux), and there are equally fine contributions from Johnny Adams, Clifton Chenier (okay, they did include some zydeco) and, especially, Percy Mayfield, whose strange but brilliant “Festis Believe in Justice” is the album’s highlight track. Highly recommended.

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