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Families and the Grammys – Carrying on the traditions

4th December 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Louisiana is renowned for its musical families, two of which are highly represented in this year’s Grammy nominations. They include vocalist/keyboardist PJ Morton and accordionist/vocalist Dwayne Dopsie whose fathers are both recording artists.

PJ Morton, the son of Bishop Paul S. Morton of the Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church Choir, is in the running for his wonderful album, Gumbo (Morton Records), in the competitive category of Best R&B Album. Morton has also been nominated for his talents as a composer in the songwriting division for his tune “First Began,” that opens the album.



A part of the beauty of “First Began” is that the lyrics, simply presented, are so universal and easy to relate to – many people have been there. Morton retains a certain element of his church background whether he’s presenting soul or rhythm and blues numbers. His sense of humanity remains at the forefront.

As the title suggests, Gumbo stirs up a mixture of genres all of which remain solidly in Morton’s comfort zone and mastery. He gets funky on another original, the dance-ready, “Sticking to My Guns” that gets down with a full band – horns and all – plus background singers. He sends his message with a groove on “Religion,” and offers some old-school style soul on “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” that features The Chicago Kid and background vocals by the Hamiltones. Morton shows himself as both a romantic and realist in his songwriting as heard on “They Gon’ Wanna Come.” He ends the disc with a solid version of the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love.”

Beyond their deep roots in the music and the culture in which they were raised, PJ Morton and Dwayne Dopsie seem to have an affinity – at least on their two nominated albums – for short tunes, the three-minute or so variety that, in the past would have fit on a 45 rpm record. It works. Morton’s nine-selection album comes in around 30 minutes.



Like Morton, Dopsie also relies almost entirely on original music for his and his band’s, The Zydeco Hellraisers’ Grammy-nominated album Top of the Mountain. It’s up for the award in the Best Regional Root Music Album category though, unfortunately, it will be competing with another Louisiana group, the modernly-bent Cajun band, the Lost Bayou Ramblers that got the nod for its release, Kalenda.

Dwayne Dopsie is the youngest son of the late great accordionist/vocalist Alton “Rockin’ Dopsie” Rubin, who earned two Grammy nominations – in 1991 for Louisiana Man and in 1989 for Saturday Night Zydeco. Dwayne’s Top of the Mountain, an incredibly lively album, shows the leader exploring the history of zydeco music – yes, he even sings in French patois – and following his dad’s journey into reggae rhythms on his rhythm and blues ace, “Gotcha Baby on My Mind,” that’s complete with a horn section. Dwayne, like his father, is a joyful musician who has found his style and rolls, full-heartedly with it.

In both cases – Morton and Dopsie – it’s easy to say, like father like son in talent and spirit.

Another Louisiana artist, slide guitarist Sonny Landreth, is also in the running for a Grammy. A native of Mississippi who landed in Lafayette, Louisiana and is now a resident of Breaux Bridge has been named for his Recorded Live in Lafayette in the Best Contemporary Blues Album category. You can catch Landreth, whose resume includes performing with the late king of zydeco Clifton Chenier, at the New Orleans Jazz Museum (the old U.S. Mint) on December 15.

Honorable mentions in the “local” Grammy nominations go to saxophonist Branford Marsalis of the legendary Marsalis musical family for the release of Branford Marsalis Quartet with Kurt Elling in the Best Jazz Vocal Album division. Branford, a brilliant musician and composer whose quartet on the disc offers Elling an extraordinary foundation, hasn’t lived New Orleans for many years though he can absolutely be declared our own.

Ledisi, who was born into a musical family in the Crescent City though she was raised in California, continues to proudly claim New Orleans as the base of her roots and influences. The vocalist has been blazing a trail having earned three nominations including one for her 2017 release Let Love Rule for Best R&B Album – up against PJ – and the tunes “High” for Best R&B Performance and “All the Way” for Best Traditional R&B Performance, On the latter, a more acoustically-oriented Ledisi displays her sophisticated side and ability to incorporate a rhythmic vocal approach while remaining totally passionate. In other words, she can do it all.

The Grammy Awards, which will take place at New York’s Madison Square Garden, will be broadcast live on CBS on January 28, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. Central Time.

New Orleans Musicians Support Puerto Rico

A very impressive number of New Orleans very finest musicians will be performing at Snug Harbor on Monday, December 4th to help support Puerto Rico which was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Organized by the always caring guitarist/banjoist/vocalist Detroit Brooks, the core band includes bassist Donald Ramsey, drummer Raymond Weber and pianist Matt Lemmler. Those joining in on this one-of-a-kind night include vocalists Germaine Bazzle and John Boutte, saxman Roger Lewis, pianists David Torkanowsky and Jon Cleary, trumpeters Kermit Ruffins, Leroy Jones and Gregory Davis and last but not least, trombonist Freddie Lonzo. It’s going to be a New Orleans love fest aimed at our deserving neighbors to the south. Proceeds will go to the Hispanic Foundation. The cover charge is a low $15. Showtimes at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

This article originally published in the December 4, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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