Tag Archives: New Orleans

King James & the Special Men Keep New Orleans Moving

King James

The story of the New Orleans-based King James & the Special Men starts a long way from the Crescent City—about 1,700 miles northwest, to be more precise. Frontman Jimmy Horn began his musical journey in Sanpete County, Utah. “It’s a lot of sheep, snakes, and dirt,” Horn says of his former home. But even before he made his way south and started digging into the Big Easy’s sonic traditions, he found ways to feed his soul with music. “My father’s record collection was where I started,” he says. “He gave me all his 45s from when he was younger. Little Richard doing ‘Tutti Frutti’ was my first favorite record.”

The raw, garagey mix of New Orleans R&B, blues, and first-gen rock ‘n’ roll that is Act Like You Know evokes images of Little Richard and Joe Strummer in a 1962 Chrysler getting into a fender bender with Professor Longhair and Fats Domino. Recorded in the 9th Ward region, it seems set to do for old-school New Orleans sounds what the Daptone crew has done for ’60s soul—honor what’s been while adding a contemporary spin.

King James

Horn has lived in New Orleans for 25 years now, soaking it all in and eventually spitting it all out. The Special Men have played weekly residencies in local haunts for years, and everybody from Elvis Costello to Robert Plant has turned up to see them perform. But they’ve only just gotten around to making an album. “I’ve always been a long-game guy,” explains Horn. “I knew for some time now that we needed a record, but I didn’t want to be the band that has eight CDs out before anyone hears a record, I wanted them to hear the first record, so I took my time.”

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Alfred Banks On His Brother’s Legacy And That Time Spike Lee Called Him Dope

Alfred Banks

Alfred Banks is holed up inside his New Orleans home, attempting to find some respite from the non-stop Mardi Gras activities taking place outside. “This Mardi Gras is the first one where I’m like a rapper, like where people have been constantly hitting me up for appearances and shows,” Banks says. While his neighbors are partying outside, he’s been busy finalizing the release of his new project, The Beautiful. It’s an album the 25-year-old artist says “means so much to me on a personal level”—mostly because it relays the emotional aftermath of the suicide of his brother, Orlandas Banks, who sadly lost his struggle with schizophrenia.

Naturally, the 12-track project can be a heavy listen. After leaving Orlandas’s funeral on the opening track, Banks steps into the character of a person who hears voices in his own head. But the rapper insists that The Beautiful shouldn’t be seen as a depressing or disturbing listen, but rather his nuanced take on a deep issue. Smartly, his serious lyrics are balanced by the always-nuanced production of Banks’ long-time creative partner, CZA, who comes through with the sort of “big and epic” beats that the rapper says “sound like they should be in an amphitheater somewhere.”

Speaking from his crib in New Orleans, Banks broke down the way he tackled the schizophrenia concept that underscores The Beautiful, the time his brother almost signed to Master P’s No Limit Records, and his long-standing relationship with sneakers.

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Lost Bayou Ramblers Release 1999 Live Recording to Benefit Flood Victims

Lost Bayou Ramblers
Lost Bayou Ramblers.

It’s for good reason that the music of the Lost Bayou Ramblers is synonymous with Louisiana. Founding brothers Louis and Andre Michot grew up there, and their family has roots in the state stretching several generations back. They were tapped to provide music for the acclaimed film Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was set in Louisiana, and no matter how progressive or experimental their music becomes, its grounding in traditional Cajun music is always clearly detectable. So when the southern part of the state was beset by flooding earlier this month, rendering houses uninhabitable and leaving people without places to sleep or food to eat, the first question on the group’s mind was, naturally, “How can we help?”

As is often the case with Lost Bayou Ramblers, the answer was found in music. The group has released a live recording of their very first show in 1999, the full proceeds from which will go to benefit those impacted by the flooding. We talked with founder, vocalist and fiddle player Louis Michot about the origins of the project.

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