Whether you’ve ever met the man or not—and since he lives in Los Angeles, odds are you haven’t—New Orleans music owes a lot to Chris Joseph. Back in 2006, he canvassed fans on the Jazz Fest chat board to raise money for John Boutté and Paul Sanchez, then displaced by Katrina, to make a CD together. That led to the creation of the Threadhead label, which released and additional 52 CDs over the next decade, all fan-funded—arguably the most prolific label recording local music in that time.
“He was the ultimate fan who also had an innovative business head, who saw a way to bring a community together,” says writer/journalist Steve Hochman, who’s part of the Threadhead advisory board. So when Joseph announced last winter that he was being treated for pancreatic cancer, a lot of musicians wanted to take the chance to return some love—none more so than Paul Sanchez, who’s worked on numerous Threadhead projects (including the Nine Lives soundtrack) and become good friends with Joseph as well.
The result is Sanchez’s new album, Life is a Ride, which will be unveiled at the annual Threadhead party at City Park on April 27. Released just weeks after its recording, the disc is unique for a few reasons: All 13 songs were recorded in one day, with an all-star cast including Royal Fingerbowl (Alex McMurray, Matt Perrine and Carlo Nuccio, recording as a unit for the first time in years), Susan Cowsill & Russ Broussard, Craig Klein, and Shamarr Allen—all of whom had done Threadhead albums in the past.
It also marks Joseph’s songwriting debut, contributing lyrics to three songs. “Chris and I have been friends for 11 years now; we’ve shared some good times and some really rough ones,” Sanchez said. “I was on my own path back to recovery from getting divorced, around the same time he started his from cancer. We exchanged a lot of texts and in one he said he’d cried a river of tears when he got the news, but those could turn into tears of healing. He asked if I could turn that into a song, and I think it became a really beautiful one. For ‘Life Is a Ride’ he came up with a couple verses and a chorus. Alex added some poetry that became the part at the end and I know that’s an honor for Chris, since he loves Alex’s writing.” Overall it may be Sanchez’s most rocking album since his Cowboy Mouth days. “I wanted it to be celebratory and catchy and danceable.”
The album will also be a Jazz Fest fix for Joseph, whose treatment will keep him away this year. “It’s been a tough time, so to have Paul do something like this—he’s just the guy,” Joseph said. “I am overwhelmed on so many levels.”
Paul Sanchez & the Rolling Road Show play on Friday, April 28 at 1:45p on the Gentilly Stage.