If you don’t think that luck and timing count for as much as anything in the music business, talk to the members of Evangeline.
“She’s A Wild One,” a song on the local country outfit’s second and current Margaritaville Records album, French Quarter Moon, spent several weeks at number one on the Billboard country singles chart during January—the sort of thing that can make a career. But the achievement of “She’s A Wild One” was not cause for celebration in the Evangeline camp—it wasn’t their version of the song that charted.
Newcomer Faith Hill had recorded the tune, which was written by a trio of independent songwriters, at roughly the same time Evangeline did. Evangeline guitarist Rhonda Lohmeyer says she and her band mates found out that another version of “Wild One” was in the making from Nashville session fiddle player Stuart Duncan, who contributed to their version—and Faith Hill’s.
“It was sort of strange,” remembers Lohmeyer. “Stu came to play [on Evangeline’s album] and he says, ‘Oh, I know this song. I just played it down the street.'”
Lohmeyer says that Jimmy Buffett and other execs at Margaritaville had wanted “She’s A Wild One” to be the first single from French Quarter Moon. “We knew we would have the opportunity to release it before Faith, and that was the plan,” says Lohmeyer. “It would have been ours…”
But the powers-that-be at MCA Records, Margaritaville’s parent company, picked “Still Loving You” as the lead-off single. That song, as Lohmeyer puts it, “did diddley-squat.”
So Lohmeyer and company had to watch as Hill’s record—aided, in part, by a slick promotional campaign that capitalized on the singer’s model looks—climbed to the top of the charts.
Lohmeyer gives credit where credit is due. “I really like Faith’s record,” she says. “I think she is one of the young people in Nashville who has some quality to her voice, and her presentation as well. Even though she looks great, she’s not all fluff. I really think there’s something there.”
Lohmeyer says she and her band mates have taken some consolation in the fact that numerous musicians—and at least one of the song’s writers—have said Evangeline’s version is the stronger of the two. And “Wild One” co-writer Will Rambeaux has invited Evangeline bassist Sharon Leger to write some material with him for Evangeline’s next record.
And don’t count French Quarter Moon out. Another cut from the album, “Let’s Go Spend Your Money Honey,” cracked the country singles chart in late January—and this one is all Evangeline.
AND THEN THERE WERE TWO…Founding Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli resigned from the band late last year over business disputes. He was replaced with Brian Stoltz, who has worked with the Neville Brothers, Dr. John and Zachary Richard.
Nocentelli’s departure leaves the group with only two original members—keyboardist Art Neville and bassist George Porter, Jr. Original drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste did not rejoin the others when they resurrected the Meters in 1989, after a 12 year hiatus. David Russell Batiste, Jr. has handled drums throughout the second incarnation of the legendary funk band.
Nocentelli’s departure hasn’t slowed the band; its February calendar is full. Good thing—what would Mardi Gras be without the originators doing “They All Asked For You”?
SHAKE, RATTLE AND RUN…When Black Top Records co-owner and producer Hammond Scott is in the studio, shakin’ is generally a good thing, provided the musicians are doing it.
But Scott had the misfortune to be in Van Nyes, California, working on blues harpist James Harman’s third album for the label, when the January 17 earthquake shook up the Van Nyes area. Scott said that on several nights, they were still recording at 4:30 a.m., when the king-size tremor hit. But on the night of the quake, they had cut out early and were asleep in a relatively-sturdy hotel when the earth moved.
Scott said the studio building where they had been working survived, but much of the gear was in disarray. “We were lucky,” says Scott. “The next day we went to get our equipment from the studio, and where I would stand a lot of the time and where the engineer was, most of the eight-foot rack of outboard equipment came crashing down over the [control] board. We probably would have been in a bad way.”
The Black Top gang took it in stride (“you didn’t have any choice,” says Hammond, “cause it was over before you knew it”). After spending the moments immediately after the quake collecting their thoughts in the cab of Hammond’s truck in the parking lot of their hotel, they found another studio that was not damaged and resumed recording less than 24 hours after Mother Nature’s interruption.
ERRATA…Geraldine Wyckoff loved Johnny Adams’ Good Morning Heartache and Terrance Simien’s There’s Room For Us All so much that she tried to slip them both into her year-end Top 10 list by assigning Simien’s record to Johnny’s name. She reports, however, that they are in fact equally popular in Belize, where she spent the holidays.
IN BRIEF…Longrunning local guitar pop trio Deadeye Dick will celebrate a new album at the Howlin’ Wolf on Friday, February 11. Peabody—who has an album of their own in the works—will open.
Friends of NOCCA have acquired property in the Faubourg Marigny for the new New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. If all goes according to plan, the magnet arts school—its alumni include various Marsalis brothers and Harry Connick Jr.—will open on the current site of several old warehouses in two years.
Congratulations to Louisiana Grammy nominees Aaron Neville (who received nods in both the Pop Male Vocalist and Country Male Vocalist categories), Beausoleil, Steve Riley and current Nashville resident (but Louisiana native) Lucinda Williams.
AND FINALLY…Here’s a fun and exciting new Mardi Gras game for the whole family: try to find the OffBeat staff as we ride up St. Charles in the Krewe of Tucks on Sat., Feb. 12.
If you miss us on the route, catch us grooving to Dr. John, the Meters, Cowboy Mouth and Irma Thomas at the post-parade “Party Gras” at the Convention Center (it starts at 3 p.m.; tickets are available through Ticketmaster and at the box office the day of the show). We definitely won’t be the ones with notebooks in our hands.