John “Papa” Gros will release his second solo album, River’s on Fire, on Friday, August 26. The New Orleans keyboardist, composer and bandleader will celebrate the new offering with a record release concert at Tipitina’s in New Orleans that night.
River’s on Fire was inspired by New Orleans icon and longtime Gros colleague Allen Toussaint, who passed away while the album was being recorded on Bayou Vermilion in Southwest Louisiana. The effort marks Gros’ first release since his old band Papa Grows Funk disbanded in 2013.
“Those are big shoes to fill and big shoes to follow,” Gros says of Toussaint. “That was the plan, though: to follow Allen’s footsteps with this record. Every song has his stamp on it, whether it’s an obvious line or a subtle trick. I was paying homage to my mentor all along the way.”
River’s on Fire finds Gros shifting his songwriting focus back to the piano after years of writing with the guitar. The 11-track record also includes a new take on “House of Love,” a tune that originally appeared on Papa Grows Funk’s 2003 release Shakin’.
“Before River’s on Fire, it had been a long time since I had done any songwriting on the piano”, Gros explains. “Previously, I had done most of my songwriting on guitar. I found that it forced me to focus on simpler chord choices and arrangements. The piano allows me the luxury to create more sophisticated compositions. With the keys I can focus on a balancing act- juggling between complexity and simplicity, while keeping the priority on the lyrics and melody.”
Gros worked with some of New Orleans’ most in-demand collaborators for the album, including Grammy Award-winning co-producer Tracey Freeman, Grammy Award-winning mixer Trina Shoemaker and guitarist Brian Stoltz.
Gros’ record release show at Tipitina’s will be free as part of the venue’s Foundation Free Fridays series. All bar proceeds from the event will go to the Tipitina’s Foundation.