With just two weeks left of 2013, rising New Orleans soul-funk band Tank and the Bangas make it to the finish line alongside a slew of other local artists pushing out debut albums for the year. Fronted by award-winning New Orleans SLAM Team (Team SNO) spoken word poet and songwriter, Tarriona “TANK” Ball, the Bangas officially release Think Tank today, and celebrate with a special release show tonight, December 19, at Tipitina’s at 9 p.m.
Tank and the Bangas have been performing together now for almost two years and have already developed a loyal fan base, devoted followers constantly asking when an album would be available. Today is the day local Tank fans get what they’ve been asking for. The Bangas have not just been performing in and around New Orleans this year though, they have toured in Florida, Georgia, New York and more recently, even garnering an award in Florida. They also took home the award for the national RAW Artists competition for Best New Orleans Music Artist of the Year at last month’s RAWards.
It is no surprise that Bangas fans have demanded a formal album, given their track record of knock-out, floor-burning live performances. If their live show delivery has been accurately captured on this disc, then Think Tank should be one of those timeless debut albums savored by avid music fans even years, and many albums, later. Yes, that’s a tall bill to fill, but the sheer potential of this band’s classic status is just that real.
Regardless of how this first recording turns out, still nothing will compare to experiencing this talented collective’s live sets. Ball’s poetic songwriting capabilities are only slightly overshadowed by her dynamic energy and charismatic stage presence. But like most great New Orleans artists, her character is not a Hollywood show or a manufactured pop act. Tank’s lyrics are crafted from tales of real life experiences and rooted in that undeniable Crescent City soul bred generations deep in the birthplace of American music. Yet, her captivating gusto would not be nearly as consummate without the backing of the Bangas band. The combination of the two is what makes Tank and the Bangas quite possibly one of New Orleans’ most promising new acts of 2014.
Though the Bangas consist of a sort of rotating assembly of young local musicians, like many true New Orleans bands, the core team members exhibit some serious skill. Guitarist and Loyola grad, Keenan McRae, stands out on solid rhythms and bold solos alike, his musical conversations with Ball on stage bringing a level of musicianship to the table missing from so many other new bands. Bandleader Norman Spence proves to be a budding multi-instrumentalist that is certainly one to watch, keeping their modern funk in the pocket on both bass and keys. Josh Johnson is a quiet storm on drums, while it will be interesting to see what second keyboardist Merell Burkett unleashes once he hits his comfort zone.
The Bangas appear to be the introduction to percussionist Nita Bailey, another fresh face to add to the ones-to-watch list. Back-up vocals are handled by a trio of soul voices clearly trained in the church, affectionately dubbed “The Grenades” by front woman, Tank. First backing voice, Jelly, also performs with the Original Pinettes Brass Band, in fact just returning from recording with the newly crowned Red Bull “Street Queens” at the Red Bull Studios in New York City.
The Bangas’ New Orleans roots are clearly evident in their rotating horn section, which includes young members of the Stooges Brass Band and others. Thursday’s release show will not be without the brass tradition as the Original Pinettes are set to warm the stage for the Bangas. Local hip-hop MC and R&B singer Dave Lemon, who also guests on Think Tank, performs as well. The show will be hosted by Smut da Poet with cameos from some of the New Orleans SLAM Poetry Team.
While several of Tank and the Bangas’ cover tunes are some favorite versions to date, anticipation of a full album’s worth of original material at Tipitina’s tonight will surely be a trial hour for this fresh and funky new outfit. The band reports that Think Tank CDs, hot off the press, will be available for sale at Tipitina’s, and ready for your critical ear. The album is available exclusively in CD format at the Tipitina’s release party only this week, but will hit iTunes, Amazon and Louisiana Music Factory next week.
The Funhouse: Tank and the Bangas Think Tank Album Release Party is Thursday, December 19, at 9:00 p.m. at Tipitina’s (501 Napoleon Ave). Doors are at 8:00 p.m. and tickets are $15 at the door. More Info: www.tarriona.wix.com/tankandthebangas