Jon Hebert’s first full-length album fits nicely into the steadily growing New Orleans singer-songwriter scene. Don’t make the mistake of thinking, however, that after hearing the album’s opening track you’ve got the formula figured out. While “Lost Yesterday” starts things off in a decidedly early-1970s folk-rock feel that would feel right at home on a Brewer & Shipley record, Bayou Wild moves effortlessly through a plethora of genres. No matter if it’s the Americana sounds of “Windy River” (which features Hebert on mandolin), the horn laden “Landmark Hotel,” or the Louisiana roots-rock of “Henriette Delille,” Hebert is clearly comfortable working in different musical landscapes.
Bayou Wild, while certainly a showcase for Hebert’s songwriting craft, is augmented by a stellar group of musicians who clearly know how to move a song forward without getting in the way. Whether it’s the understated drumming of Andre Bohren, the silky smooth pedal steel of Bruce Tyner, the exquisite fiddle work of Gina Forsyth, or the horn section featuring Rick Trolsen, Jeff Watkins, Joe Crachiola, Ian Smith, and Tim Stambaugh, the supporting cast lays an appropriate framework for the all-important story line. And speaking of story lines, Hebert has a knack for clever lyrics that mine the human experience without sounding forced or contrived. As evidenced in the cautionary tale of “Aim For The Wishing Well” or the light-hearted fun of “Too Much Sugar Blues” (with one of my favorite lines of the album: “confectionary mama with a praline smile”) the writing, like the musical accompaniment, is rock solid. Finally, for those who prefer non-traditional Christmas songs, Hebert delivers the gift of “Brr Brr Bourbon Street.”