Billy Iuso & the Restless Natives, Home by the Sea (Independent)

Of the seemingly infinite list of local talents somehow excluded from Jazz Fest’s regular roster of Louisiana musicians invited to play the Fair Grounds, guitar shredder Billy Iuso and his kindred spirits in the Restless Natives rank among the most egregious omissions. True, they have played Fest before: in 2008, not long after the band formed following New York native Iuso’s migration from Athens, Georgia, where he fronted popular touring act Brides of Jesus, to his heart’s home of New Orleans to continue his career, a move inspired by his connections with George Porter, Jr. and the funky Meters; and in 2014, when they filled in for a cancellation. These sparse festival bookings contrast starkly to Iuso’s status as both bandleader and hired gun, performing on big stages and in premier venues, which has earned him a solid local following. His seven original compositions on the sublime Home by the Sea, fresh off its (fitting) 4/20 release date, should change that. New Restless Natives Michael Burkart (Mikey B3, keys) and saxophonist extraordinaire Brad Walker provide for a rich, diversified texture to Iuso’s Deadhead sensibilities. Yet, the big revelation here is the eloquence of Iuso’s lyricism and song structure, notably on the tenderhearted “There’s a Gentleness about Her,” the brilliant imagery of “The Chosen One” and the emotive vulnerability of “Need You to Love Me.” Fans of the band, called BIRN Outs, need not fret about their man going soft, however: The freak flag is hoisted high with the smoothly psychedelic “Just You and Me,” the mod-rock monster “My Name Is Record Player”—which would sound at home on recent Jack White albums—and funky-as-fuck rhythms provided by long-time drummer Eddie Christmas, bassist Ken Turner and guest percussionist Mike Dillon on “Just You and Me.” Jam on, y’all.