They call him the storyteller. Spencer Bohren has been plying his trade as a New Orleans–based singer-songwriter, guitarist and sometimes bandleader over the last 40 years. Somewhere during that run he became known as well for his stories as his songs. He has recorded numerous albums along the way, mixing his own songs with retellings of other tales. This one is both a meditation on his lengthy career and a showcase for his latest band, the Whippersnappers, an all-star collection of next-generation players. Spencer’s son Andre plays drums in the Whippersnappers. His bandmates are Alex McMurray on guitar, Dave Pomerleau on bass, Casey McAllister on keyboards and Aurora Nealand on saxophones. They share this easygoing romp through history like the trusted partners they are.
Bohren begins with “Travelin’,” his version of the itinerant musician’s ballad that namechecks cities where he’s played. Bohren sings it Hank Williams–style, carefree but with an underlying desire to return to his New Orleans home. “A Thousand Dusty Miles” is a more uptempo road song driven by Andre’s spirited drumming, Spencer’s cranked up lap steel playing and the nastiest of guitar accompaniments from McMurray. The title track is another song along this theme, a piece written by Clark Vreeland back in the 1970s when he and Bohren played together in a band called Room Service.
Today McMurray is Bohren’s partner in the Write Brothers and Nealand plays with him in Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers. They both, along with Andre, harmonize effectively with Bohren, a collaboration heard to great effect on the gospel shout “I’ve Been Delivered.” Elsewhere the band supports Bohren on the brooding “Thief in the Night,” the beautiful ballad “Is Your Heater Hot Tonight,” the Louisiana inundation tale “The River’s Risin’” and a terrific recounting of the old American folk song “Delia.”
Bohren also performs two songs without the band, a reading of Dolly Parton’s “Lost Forever in Your Kiss” and a rare political piece from Spencer, “In the Absence of the Sacred,” a commentary on current events that needs no explication.