A question occurred to me toward the end of “Let Me Do My Thing,” the seventh track off the Hot 8 Brass Band’s new record: “Why isn’t this style more popular?” After all, you hardly need to be an aficionado of New Orleans brass music to be drawn in by the crisscrossing rhythms of the drummers and rappers. The song has all the head-bobbing intensity of a good hip-hop track with the dynamism of a live ensemble. When Bennie Pete punctuates the end of a bar with a snarl from his tuba, it just feels right.
Then again, judging by the reactions the Hot 8 elicits in locales as far flung as Paris and Dublin, maybe something is stirring. Life and Times is the Hot 8’s second album for Brighton-based label Tru Thoughts (not counting 2008’s Hot 8 Remixes). The Transatlantic theme is reinforced by the Latin-tinged “Bingo Bango,” a reworking of a track by UK dance outfit Basement Jaxx (with whom the Hot 8 have previously recorded).
“New Orleans (After the City)” is a rousing, post-Katrina reaffirmation of commitment by the Hot 8 to their hometown. From another artist it might seem a hollow gesture, but with all the Hot 8 have been through it has real impact. “War Time,” written in part by deceased ex-snare drummer Dinerral Shavers, ends the record on an energetic note. The track fades into silence after seven minutes, like a second line disappearing into the distance.