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‘Mardi Gras Mambo’ to ‘You Are the Sunshine of My Life’ – Songs Change with the Holiday

12th February 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

On Carnival Day, many people in New Orleans who enjoy the celebration rise early to the sounds of the Hawketts’ “Mardi Gras Mambo,” Professor Longhair’s funkified “Big Chief” and “Go to the Mardi Gras” with the volume turned up on their radios, CD players or YouTube and the like. Others might be lucky enough to hear to hear a band go by playing Rebirth’s “Do Whatcha Wanna.”

The next day, which happens to be both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, the music takes a more romantic bent. Some commercials and folks suggest to pledge your love with the slogan “say it with flowers” or “say it with chocolate.” A more lasting remembrance is to “say it with music.” That way, memories can be returned to year after year.

Most couples enjoy “their” special song that can range from saxophone giant John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” to Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” and even Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill.” “I found my thrill… when I met you.” For the Obamas, of course, it’s Etta James’ classic “At Last,” which they glided through at the president’s first inaugural ball.

The following are two special albums — one new and one re-issue — that ooze romance as well as offer other flavors. They have another aspect in common. Every song on these discs is a winner.

Jamison Ross
All For One
(Concord Jazz)

Vocalist and drummer Jamison Ross, whose debut, self-titled release earned him a Grammy nomination, doesn’t shy away from being a full-on romantic. He does so both on his original work such as his and his writing partner, guitarist Rick Lollar’s memorable “Call Me” as well as his choice of covers including, “Don’t Go to Strangers,” a tune most people in New Orleans associate with the late, great Johnny Adams. Though “Call Me,” on which Ross defines his duel musical roles in the lyrics, “I’m sitting here at the drums with nothin’ but melodies on my mind,” boasts an up-beat tempo – it’s no cheek-to-check number. Ross indicates he won’t answer the ringing of his phone unless it’s his girl. “I get that feeling when she calls me…” he soulfully and passionately bursts.

In a quieter, softer mood, another Ross/Lollar gem is “Safe in the Arms of Love,” on which he incorporates the bands newest member — and instrument — organist Corey Irvin who perfectly complements pianist Chris Pattishall and bassist Barry Stephenson.

Naturally, not all of the cuts on All For One are pure romance though they all do offer positive vibrations. Ross’ gospel roots are evident on his uplifting “Keep On,” a simply delivered tune that suggests to “smile all your worries away, don’t wait for tomorrow.”

The release opens appreciatively with an Allen Toussaint composition, “A Mellow Good Time” made famous by vocalist Lee Dorsey. It’s got all the New Orleans essentials — the backbeat provided by Ross plus Pattishall’s rollicking piano. A Florida native and now New Orleans resident, Ross is obviously a student of this city’s beats, funk and havin’ fun ways. “We’re gonna live long and party strong.”

Ross takes it out with the rousing “Let’s Sing Again,” made famous by Louisiana’s legendary Jelly Roll Morton. It stands as a love song for humanity.

Rockie Charles
Born for You


With its lively soulful rhythm, the title cut doesn’t lend itself for slow dancing, yet the sentiment of the lyrics, “Baby, I was born for you…” delivered with such honest sincerity certainly get vocalist, guitarist and composer Rockie Charles’ point across. It’s the first cut of a solid 11 tunes heard on the album that was first released in 1996 and now has been re-released on CD and vinyl and is available as a download.

Where there is love, there is often love lost as Charles laments on “There Is a Rainbow Hangin’ Over My Shoulder.” The vocalist really knows how to take his time as he seemingly contemplates what happened to the romance that was. His oh-so-slow approach makes this song perfect for turning the lights down low and enjoying one of those just barely moving dances with the right partner.

A soul groove enhances “I Need Your Love So Bad (I’m About to Lose My Mind),” complete with horns and background vocalists. “My heart is beating fast… I can’t take it no more,” sings Charles as he awaits the return of his sweetheart. “This pain that I’m going through don’t make no sense to me,” he continues expressing his confusion and desires. Charles returns to that unhurried tempo on another beauty, “Something Is Wrong with Our Love,” on which an organ amplifies the pathos. Again, he is mystified by the direction the relationship has taken. He sings the emotion: “We’ve got to find, we’ve got to find out the cause.”

The thing about Charles, who passed in 2010 after a too-brief brush with fame, is his singular approach to his vocals — it’s not only that he can hit the high notes but it’s the way he hits them. That can also be said of his individualistic guitar work and his real-to-life lyrics. Outside of music, Rockie Charles, the “President of Soul,” was also unique. He worked as a tugboat captain and was building a boat in the backyard of his home in Algiers.

This article originally published in the February 12, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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