Look out—here come the vagabonds.
The City that Care Forgot has seen a steady post-K influx of wandering minstrels sneaking across our cultural borders, most with the same backstory involving itchy feet, musical obsession, and youthful exuberance.
They’re also playing an interesting version of Americana that puts as much emphasis on trad jazz and gypsy folk as it does hillbilly stomp and Delta blues.
Come to think of it, vagabond music is a good name for what they do, even if they don’t always share the same approach, and this compilation—a “digital tip jar” that records NOLA street musicians and then divvies up the proceeds between them all—is a perfect showcase for the city’s new bohemia.
It’s a genre that seems to be split between hipsters and drunks, but of course there’s a lot of overlap. Yes Ma’am’s “Deep Chatham” sounds like Appalachia in the hands of a busker, one who isn’t afraid to make a rhyme or two about incest. The Drunken Catfish Ramblers manage to nail the sacred/secular blur of “What a Time (Talking with the Angels),” and the Hokum High Rollers’ “Ragged But Right” sounds like the Rolling Stones would if they’d decided to go the jug-band route.
Meanwhile, in the realm of the optimistic singer-songwriter, Shine Delphi, Nathan Rivera, and the Good Gollies smooth out the edges of folk-blues for their own sunny purposes. Then there’s the skiffle purism of Todd Day Walt’s Pigpen, the straight Dixieland of Madeleine Reidy and Jazz Friends, and the gypsy traditionalism of G String Orchestra, all of it without the slightest aftertaste of irony. Reconciling all this wanderlust is not the job of a comp, but there’s enough hive mind here to suggest not just a trend, but a scene.
New Bohemia? Vagabond? Gutterfolk?
Time for some musicological peer review.