I once saw Henry Butler judge a big butt contest at the Funky Butt on Rampart Street and have been searching for another night like that ever since. Similar memories fuel the allegiance to New Orleans that brings tourists back year after year to worship at our soiled altars. For members of the Funky Butt Brass Band from St. Louis, tribute takes the form of a working brass band, and they are nothing if not reverential.
None of us should resent such earnest idolatry. These cats can play, and they offer nothing but praise for the traditional brass band, doing their best to imitate the Dirty Dozen and Rebirth. Does it sound weird sometimes? Yes. On John Boutte’s “Door Poppin’,” we hear the limits of the word “Treme” in a faraway mouth. The vocal doesn’t break quite right, the edges a little too sharp. I’d mention an over-reliance on the words “New Orleans,” but many hometown composers suffer from similar addictions.
The horns are the key, of course, and they perform admirably. We should accept the compliment that is this album, offered without irony and but with one overindulgence in its adulation: the track “The Devil Went Down to NOLA,” done to the Charlie Daniels melody. That was a little much, fellas. To echo Faulkner, we all rub the Tyrrhenian vase a little too long some nights.