Billy Iuso, Trippin’ (Independent)

Billy Iuso, Trippin'

In an era of music when imitation is as important as innovation, Billy Iuso shows his ability to do both while maintaining a sound that has developed a solid identity within New Orleans music. The title track—“Trippin’ Over Dragons”—may induce a few ’60s acid flashbacks with its psychedelic introduction featuring Iuso’s electric guitar arpeggios and Ivan Neville’s funky clavinet riffs. The intro gives way to an animated and catchy funk/rock chorus heavy in syncopated guitar and drumbeats. While it is most certainly the track with the most commercial appeal, “Trippin’ Over Dragons” is only one of many gems on the record.

Iuso set his bar high, covering songs by guitar legends Eric Clapton and Peter Townshend. In “The Core,” Iuso uses the same guitar riff as Clapton’s version, but he takes away the chords, giving room for Ivan Neville and Jimmy Carpenter to funk it up on the organ/clavinet and tenor sax, respectively. Meschiya Lake’s pristine vocals match well with Iuso’s raw sound.

He plays the Who’s “Magic Bus” with a New Orleans twist, bringing in the Rebirth Brass Band’s Phil Frazier to lead a full brass section that includes Jimmy Carpenter on sax, Antonio Gambrell on trumpet, and Rick Trolsen on trombone.

To add diversity, the album closes with Rickie Lee Jones’ “Horses,” which features several acoustic instruments to provide a soft accompaniment for Iuso and his daughter Aria in a ballad. Trippin’ appeals to a wide audience; lovers of funk, blues, rock, jazz, and everything in between can find something they like about this album.