The Best Louisiana Albums of 2010

This year, people paid off. Fans have been waiting for a long time for a Trombone Shorty album that captured what he and Orleans Avenue had become, and he delivered. Fans had been waiting for Anders Osborne to pull his gifts together in an album that would validate their faith in him, and he delivered. Two labels and Lil Wayne saw a future in the rapper Curren$y, and on Pilot Talk and the year-ending Pilot Talk 2, he proved them right. Dumpstaphunk finally released a CD worthy of the band, and Aaron Neville made a gospel album that treats his voice as the treasure that it is.

Ben Ellman also had a good year. The Galactic sax player produced Trombone Shorty’s Backatown, he performed and co-produced Galactic’s Ya-Ka- May, and he and DJ Quickie Mart merged Balkan folk music with bounce vocals under the name Gypsyphonic Disko. Each production put forth a vision of New Orleans music that was rooted in the past but reflected where we are today.

But the year belonged to Trombone Shorty, who’s becoming a national star. Backatown is an exuberant, immediate translation of New Orleans’ brass culture to a country that doesn’t have time for all the mucking around. It’s a performer’s triumph and a conceptual one, like many of the year’s top albums (Preservation, I Know I’ve Been Changed, Ya-Ka-May and American Patchwork to start with). We expect well-played albums to come out of the Crescent City; this year’s crop of smart, audacious albums bodes well for the future.

1. Trombone Shorty: Backatown (Verve) “It’s a crossover set, but a creative one that doesn’t play to the tourists alone.” reviewed May 2010 by Brett Milano

2. Galactic: Ya-Ka-May (Anti-) “Ya-Ka-May is the band’s purest homage to the Meters.” —reviewed February 2010 by Alex Rawls

3. Anders Osborne: American Patchwork (Alligator) “American Patchwork is the album Osborne fans have been waiting for.” reviewed May 2010 by John Swenson

4. Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Preservation (Preservation Hall) “They give another generation or two a reason to pay attention to them as music, not just as an institution.”— reviewed March 2010 by Alex Rawls

5. Gypsyphonic Disko: Nola-Phonic, Volume One (Mixtape) “Ellman and Quickie Mart found the universal bond between the music of our streets and those across the Atlantic and south of the Gulf.”—reviewed March 2010 by Ben Berman

6. Curren$y: Pilot Talk (Def Jam) “This is bossa hip-hop—cool, breezy and removed.”—reviewed October 2010 by Ben Berman

7. Dr. John: Tribal (429 Records) “Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of Dr. John’s genius is the quality and depth of his songwriting.”—reviewed September 2010 by John Swenson

8. Dumpstaphunk: Everybody Want Sum (Independent) “A party album. It’ll sound great when someone plays it on St. Charles before a Mardi Gras parade.”—reviewed November 2010 by Ben Berman

9. Kermit Ruffins: Happy Talk (Basin Street) “As interpreters of fancy, of mosey, of the positive go, who’s better than Kermit?”—reviewed November 2010 by Brian Boyles

10. Feufollet: En Couleurs (Feufollet) “The disc’s beauty lies within its cavernous creativity, boundless ingenuity and risktaking experiments.”—reviewed July 2010 by Dan Willging

11. Aaron Neville: I Know I’ve Been Changed (EMI) “Throughout, there’s an appealing buoyancy in his performances beyond his quaver, as if the transcendent subject matter has already lightened his load.”—reviewed November 2010 by Alex Rawls

12. Rotary Downs: Crooked Maps and Blue Reports (Rookery) “There is a certain muscle and authority in these songs.”— reviewed March 2010 by David Kunian

13. Christian Scott: Yesterday You Said Tomorrow (Concord) “What is surprising is the sense that Radiohead could probably record an album of Scott’s compositions.”—reviewed May 2010 by John Swenson

14. Cedric Watson et Bijou Creole: Creole Moon: Live From the Blue Moon (Valcour) “Watson juxtaposes old style, accordion played zydeco with rollicking Cajun/Creole fiddle tunes.”—reviewed December 2010 by Dan Willging

15. Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship?: Of Resolutions and Resolve (Domino Sound) “An imaginative and finely crafted record.”—reviewed November 2010 by Zachary Young

16. Susan Cowsill: Lighthouse (Threadhead) “Cowsill’s feeling her emotions without being lost in them.”—reviewed May 2010 by Alex Rawls

17. Honey Island Swamp Band: Good to You (Threadhead) “It sneaks up on you like a slow-rolling breeze on a sticky, summer afternoon.”—reviewed May 2010 by Aaron Lafont

18. Kenny Neal: Hooked on Your Love (Blind Pig) “Hooked on Your Love belongs at the top of a short list of this year’s essential purchases.”—reviewed September 2010 by Jeff Hannusch

19. Happy Talk Band: Starve a Fever (Piety Street) “Luke Allen’s bruised heart’s what makes Happy Talk Band special.”—reviewed July 2010 by Alex Rawls

20. The Givers: Givers EP (Valcour) “The band creates a lush, layered atmosphere, filled with choruses that stick in your head for days.”—reviewed April 2010 by Kathleen McCann


THE NEXT 20 (in alphabetical order)

101 Runners: New Orleans Funk 101 (Meantime Lounge) “This show from Tipitina’s catches lightning in a bottle.”—reviewed June 2010 by John Swenson

Ryan Brunet and the Malfecteurs: Ryan Brunet and the Malfecteurs (Independent) “It’s not your typical Cajun dance band steel guitar, stylistically it’s of the 1940s vintage.”—reviewed August 2010 by Dan Willging

Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band: Zydeco Junkie (Swampadellic) “Carrier’s a third-generation zydeco musician, he’s not bound by his cultural music.”—reviewed May 2010 by Dan Willging

Andy J. Forest: NOtown Story: The Triumph of Turmoil (Independent) “Forest is a multi-faceted songwriter who’s written some of the more interesting pieces about New Orleans.”—reviewed November 2010 by John Swenson

Rex Gregory: An End to Oblivion (Independent) “Gregory delivers a thought-provoking work of art and provocative musical experience.”—reviewed August 2010 by Aaron Lafont

Hurray for the Riff Raff: Young Blood Blues (Independent) “The band’s new approach displays growth and improvement.”—reviewed April 2010 by Rory Callais

Krewe of Eris: The Feasts of the Appetite of Eris (Domino Sound) “It is Mardi Gras music at its most honest.”—reviewed March 2010 by Ben Berman

Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns: Lucky Devil (Independent) “Lake’s music is attractive and solidly executed.”—reviewed August 2010 by Zachary Young

Little Freddie King: Gotta Walk With da King (MadeWright) “Little Freddie is a bit of a rarity as his guitar playing seems to improve with each succeeding release.”—reviewed June 2010 by Jeff Hannusch

Los Po-Boy-Citos: Brand New Dance (Independent) “They have become sufficiently fluent in the boogaloo musical vocabulary to write in the style.”—reviewed December 2010 by Alex Rawls

The New Orleans Moonshiners: I’m Comin’ Home (Independent) “They excel in creating the atmosphere of controlled chaos that characterizes much successful trad jazz.”—reviewed May 2010 by Zachary Young

Neslort: Mystical Scam (Lort/Threadhead) “Trolsen’s humor is a mask that only barely conceals his earnest, humanistic side.”—reviewed January 2011 by John Swenson.

Matt Perrine & Sunflower City: Bayou Road Suite (Threadhead) “With his playing, arranging and composing, he continues to raise the bar for traditional music with a New Orleans flavor.”—reviewed May 2010 by Tom McDermott

Dax Riggs: Say Goodnight to the World (Fat Possum) “Riggs makes it his business to darken rock ’n’ roll’s lighthearted iconography.”— reviewed October 2010 by Jacob Leland

Cindy Scott: Let the Devil Take Tomorrow (Catahoula) “She has serious jazz chops that enable her to improvise on a dime on whatever chord changes are thrown her way.”—reviewed January 2010 by Tom McDermott

R. Scully’s Rough 7: Give Up Your Dreams (Upper Ninth) “The real beauty in Give Up Your Dreams lays in the cathartic panoramas, the valleys and peaks.”—reviewed July 2010 by Alex V. Cook

TheSekondElement: The Kommencement (Independent) “TheSekondElement isn’t afraid to kick it old school, packing plenty of bite, substance and integrity in her raps.”—reviewed August 2010 by Aaron Lafont

Amanda Shaw: Good Southern Girl (Poorman Mayfield) “Precise, confident, and playful in her approach to soloing and, in particular, to the Cajun, Creole, country, and traditional pieces.”—reviewed November 2010 by Jacob Leland

Truth Universal: Guerilla Business (Independent) “It’s a blueprint for his socially-conscious, street-tempered method.”—reviewed May 2010 by Aaron Lafont

Linzay Young & Joel Savoy: Linzay Young & Joel Savoy (Valcour) “Young embodies the spirit of the classic Cajun crooners without the shrill, plaintive vocals.”—reviewed January 2010 by Dan Willging