When you get right down to it, most bands formed in the Crescent City are gonna be supergroups. The city’s just that insular and that talented.
But even for all that, the New Orleans Suspects are impressive: the rhythm section alone is half Neville Brothers (“Mean” Willie Green, drums) and half Radiators (Reggie Scanlan, bass). Then there’s Jack Eckert’s stint as the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s guitarist, a sax man with extensive James Brown credits in Jeff Watkins, and one of the Meters’ (Leo’s) go-to pianists, C.R. Gruver.
This is one of those bands whose resume is its description, and the Suspects prove it by giving you about what you’d expect on their second studio album—heavy NOLA funk on the bottom, some blues guitar up top, and a middle that alternates between soul and boogie-woogie.
But what they mostly sound like is ’70s R&B, specifically, the kind the Meters used to do so well. This is why the Little Feat vibe of “Magadalena” picks up a good bit of Billy Preston flavor along the way, and the ghosts of Sea-Saint are all over “Get Back What You Given,” replete with “fee na nays.”
The twin aces in the hole are Watkins’ brass section, which appears every time the band wants to drive a hook home, and Eckert’s own originals, which revel in that easy-going, yet moral, old-school soul spirit. And when they expand their world out, it gets better. The Santana wannabe “Pocketful of Grits” comes with even jazzier figures and some second-line coloring.
Even “Hoodoos and Cunyans,” essentially six minutes of swamp guitar, is impressively atmospheric. There are even times, as on “Soothe Me” and “Things (In Your Mind),” where they sound like everyone at the Band’s “Last Waltz” concert playing at once, minus a Joni and a couple of Neils.
And how many jam bands can set up a head-cutting contest between slide blues guitar and clarinet?