Redneck Noir: E2TG Reviews Motel Oatmeal by Darrin Bradbury

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About a month ago, Darrin Bradbury sent me some songs he was thinking about releasing and wanted to know my opinion.  So, I listened – cause when it comes to music well that is what I do – and when I was done I told him what I thought.  Spoiler alert: he ended up releasing the album Motel Oatmeal on August 5 some seriously cool folks had good things to say about it, and it was trending as a bestselling “Folk” record on Bandcamp for a time.  Darrin told me a few weeks back that my comments help convince him to release the record.  I said at that time that I should tidy up those comments and post them as a review of the record.  So, in my usual timely approach, I offer up what will serve as an official E2TG review of Motel Oatmeal – which is still the most current release from Mr. Bradbury.



So here (just slightly edited) are my original comments:

What I love about this collection of songs is the way it really pulled me into the situations. I think it struck me – particularly the first four songs – like a collection of well crafted short stories. In a short time, I knew the characters and the settings. And then, damn if you didn’t write a straight up country song (in the best sense of the term). I’m not a musician, but I think when you live in Nashville for 20 years, it’s just engrained in you to recognize a bridge when you here it. And Bad Habits is just a cool, fun summation of the whole damn thing. I like it. Well done.


The first four songs: Motel Oatmeal, Zoey, Sophie’s Apartment, and Modela really are well-drawn stories that drew me into the stories right away. I think Sam Shepard could listen to these songs and write plays based on these characters. Hell, I think Joe Wolfe-Mazeres could hear these songs and write short stories based on these characters and maybe he should.  I told Darrin later that I considered using the term “Redneck Noir” to describe some of the songs, but I resisted because I was afraid he would take that the wrong way.

Good Friends, Cheap Beer, and You has become the “Fran’s Theme Song”, and “Bad Habits” is a wonderfully fun Country song, and it’s been amazing and wonderful to hear Darrin and Tim Carroll doing this song together at Fran’s Eastside on Wednesday nights (subtle plug for Nashville folks). 



Okay not so subtle

So head on over to Bandcamp (actually just use the widget thingy below) and download Darrin Bradbury’s Motel Oatmeal today and tell them Ear to the Ground sent you.  Don’t forget despite what Homer Simpson says “Suggested Donation” doesn’t have to mean “free”. Pay what you can and support worthy artists like Darrin Bradbury.



http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=2744121549/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/transparent=true/

Hopeful Resignation: An E2TG Review of My Country by The Grey A

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the%20Grey%20A

The facts:  The Grey A is a band from Washington D.C. fronted by Grey Jacks who used to be in the Murfreesboro, Tennessee band Glossary.  The Grey A is releasing their debut album My Country on September 2.  The album’s recording took place in Middle Tennessee not too far from my hometown along the banks of Center Hill Lake, and many amazing Nashville players make appearances on this album including William Tyler (Lambchop), Jimmy Matt Roland from Caitlin Rose’s band, and even the Nashville Brass.  Current The Grey A bassist Howard Rabach has been a supported of this blog for about as long as anyone, and his band Ubiquity Machine were the runners up for the inaugural Band of the Year contest way back in 2011.  He joined the band after the recording of the album, but he was kind enough to pass this along to me.

Here is what Ear to the Ground has to say:

My Country Song – The website of The Grey A boldly declares, “This is the new sound of a middle ground.”  And this lead off track is a gently expressed, but boldly stated manifesto from this middle ground. Soaring vocal with slightly fuzzy but ringing guitars. “My country’s fast asleep.” This first line is a simple statement that is hard to argue, but it continues “And they don’t notice Higher Power as they beat/ The brains of anyone who guides the flow of capital with downward thoughts.” Ah, and  now we see where this is going. An infectious groove, chiming keyboards, and glorious background vocals directs a stirring Pop anthem of the people. The message turns inward as a call to unity with pointed warnings of the dangers of hate. The Nashville Brass add their sonic signature to a stirring bridge that leads back into a reprise of the opening of the song which ends in a note of hopeful resignation.


People Happy – This track begins with a sharp acoustic guitar playing a countryish melody.  The amazing vocals introduce a 21st Century highwayman who entertains with a virus.  And I understand this is the bill of goods so many of us have bought into in this day and age.  Then the chorus kicks in…oh this glorious chorus. “People Happy everywhere I see” it such an upbeat and catchy chorus this could be a song of the summer.  We are all happy – right?  “There’s people happier than me.” Right, because when I turn on Facebook my newsfeed is literally filled with people whose lives are so much better than mine. They are more successful, take more trips, have cooler things, know cooler people… But is this real?  Maybe the real message here is that “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” can be a noble intention for an individual, but for a collection population it can be the tool of the few who tell us, “we’re handling everything”.  And the question of the song almost seems left for us all to answer.  “Can I believe ‘em, do you believe ‘em, should you believe ‘em, can you believe?”


Unusual as Usual – Begins with thunderous bass/guitar line that runs counter to the previous tracks. This track’s insistent intensity drives a strong minded message that seems to suggest blending in as a way of making real change from within a twisted and broken system.  Playing a part – maybe with eyes wide open to the lies being told to our faces and the theft going on right underneath our noses.  Hidden in plain sight as it were by the blandness and ordinariness of it all. Truthfully, I don’t know if I completely understand this song, but I got something out of it, and as with the rest of the album so far, it is so infectious and  enjoyable… it’s like a really great teacher who imparts wisdom in an engaging way, and you listen, you soak it in, and you trust that even if every meaning and truth is not clear today that it’s all going in to be processed later as you go on through your life.


Dumb Fool – A funky,sultry indictment of present day American electoral processes.  The hopeful resignation I mentioned in the opening track – well maybe it’s resigned hopefulness – whatever it is, the tension it creates are what makes this music so powerful.  It’s a tension I know all too well when I look out at the state of our country and our world.  At times, I feel moved to some kind of action, and at times it all seems so pointless…  And this conflict doesn’t necessarily get wrapped up in a 30 minute sitcom storyline or in a 3 minute Pop song, and I think that’s okay.  As long as we acknowledge and continue the conflict we can maintain the thread of hope even if it is tempered at times by a sense of resignation.
Until They Find Us – I really like this track.  It begins by suggesting a pause button on politics. The music is powerful.  The lyrics seem to suggest the covert rebellion hinted at earlier in the album.  The words “You know I don’t think we’ll be emancipated” are sung with a confidence as if they were saying the opposite.  Maybe as in there’s a certain type of freedom in knowing that no knight in shining armor is going to show up on his white steed and lead us to freedom.


It’s All Been Done – a brief song.  Water is rising and when we try to offer a warning, we are told that it has all been done before…  perhaps this song is an intro to the next song…


Swimming New Orleans – This may be the standout track of the whole album.  A funeral procession – New Orleans-style for the post-climate change era.  A vision of the city of grand wickedness submerged by rising waters, and yet like a New Orleans funeral, there is this joyful exuberant hope of building a new New Orleans.  I have a spiritual connection to the city of New Orleans, and to me this track really captures that spirit.


Dead Mans Cause – “I call on on my citizens…”  This slow but strong track is a call to arms of sorts. What I take from the line that we all have faults – is a continuation of the message of the collective power of a group of broken, imperfect citizens united behind a noble purpose… that’s my take.


In Remembrance – another short song with the Nashville Brass adding a powerful jazzy underscore to an appropriately somber instrumental.


Tree of Evolution – One of my favorite songs…  wow! An extremely groovy song that I find it almost impossible to to move to, and a thorough and effective explanation and defense of the Theory of Evolution all in about 3:45.  I love it!


Twin Void – a necessary come down musicially speaking.  A slow song, and I’m just going to flat out admit, I don’t think I caught the the meaning behind this song.  Are the twin boys and twin girls metaphors? Underneath the shine, something lacks the glow.  Maybe it’s resisting the temptation to fall for surface images that belie the twin voids of the title.  I think I will keep listening.  


The Bomb Stops Ticking – The album ends with a stirring and gorgeous ballad to the “end of the human race”.  The utter hopelessness of the line. “No one’s listening and the bomb stops ticking and we’re gone” is offset by this subtle yet sure sense that maybe just maybe we still have time to wake up and start listening and diffuse this course which seems so inevitable.

My Country by The Grey A stands apart from much of the music being made and played today.  It is not cheery optimism and it is not nihilism. I don’t know if the hopeful resignation (my words) is even an accurate representation, but those words kept coming back to me as I listened.  This is not disposable “pop music”, but in the best sense of the word this is Pop music, and it is meant for repeated listening and maybe an open-minded willingness to have ones mind changed  evan about the meaning of these songs.  Is my review a fair and accurate accessment of this album?  Probably not.  If I reviewed it again tomorrow or next week, I may hear something else, and that’s a good thing.  I strongly recommend buying this album. You can Pre-order and get a t-shirt for $5.00 off by visiting The Grey A website.

The Grey A will be hitting the road in support of My Country, and if they come your way, I recommend you check them out.  I will be there September 12 when they play The Stone Fox in Nashville.  I looking forward to finally meeting Howard, and there are rumors that some of the guests from the album may make an appearance. I don’t know any details but The Stone Fox is co-owned by William Tyler…  Glossary and an acoustic duo of members of Glossary will be opening.

Here is a schedule of up coming shows:




Friday Morning Music Shuffle – Adjustable Rod Mix

Not much pre-shuffle commentary today.  It is Friday ahead of a three day weekend here in the States, and this is the last Morning Shuffle of August. We have some real gems in the shuffle today, so let’s do it!

“The Second Renaissance (Part III)” by The Danbury Lie from Fourth Time’s a Charm

Working our way backwards through The Second Renaissance series of tracks (we previously have presented part IV and Parts I-II are still to come).  The enigmatic The Danbury Lie offer up a prime example of what they do so well in this instrumental track that transitions effortlessly from gentle folk to progressive metal.

“Thinking Out Loud” by Ron Sexsmith from Other Songs

Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith is up next with a song from his second major label album.  This song really resonated with me this morning.  “But it’s hard to think with all the racket Going on inside our heads”

“Grampa’s Got the Marshall Out Again” by Tim Carroll from Opening Up

Just a fun song – one of the highlights from seeing Tim down at Fran’s. Maybe he’ll do this song with a full-band tonight at The 5 Spot for his Rock ‘n Roll Happy Hour… Go Grampa go! Just not too far…

“If Memory Serves” by Chris Stamey from Lovesick Blues

Chris Stamey was part of The Dbs.  He has played with a virtual who’s who of my musical heroes.  This song is from his excellent 2013 solo record.

“Girl That’s Hip” by Tim Carroll from Opening Up/Not for Sale

I want a girl who’s hip, but not too hip…  #2 from Mr. Carroll. Another favorite.

“Occasional Shivers” by Chris Stamey from Lovesick Blues

I have to say this alternating tracks thing with Tim Carroll and Chris Stamey that the shuffle monster has come up with is pretty damn sweet.  This is another song that really resonated with me this morning…

“Hold Me Up” by Velvet Crush from Teenage Symphonies to God

This record is twenty years old this year, and it still sounds fresh, and it really makes a nice addition to this shuffle.

“Earthquake, Hurricane, Flood and You” !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”); by The Grimm Generation from The Big Fame

Okay – so several songs are resonating with me this morning.  The mighty, mighty The Grimm Generation sum up a bunch of relationships in a way only they can do. 

“Adjustable Rod” by Joe Bouchard and Marty Carlson from $100 Guitar Project

So, as I understand it, somebody bought a guitar for $100 bucks.  Passed it around to a bunch of great players and let them play and then sign the guitar.  The resulting songs were recorded and released and feature such names Fred Firth, Elliot Smith, Henry Kaiser, and a bunch more.  This track features Joe Bouchard who was in Blue Oyster Cult from 1971 until 1986, and Marty Carlson. 

“People Happy” by The Grey A from My Country

And we close out with another great song from the soon to be released new album from The Grey A.  I have some great lines in my head about this song, but I want to save them for the review I AM going to write this weekend.  Ah heck…. this song is what happens when to take a gentle yet sincere political folk song and incorporate it into a catchy pop song. And I use catchy pop song in the most respectful and positive way. I think too often Pop music becomes too synonymous in some peoples minds with mindless, lame, disposable music.  I tend to call those type of songs crap music. People Happy is none of those previously mentioned things.  It is thoughtful, clever, and timeless. I think (for better or for worse) this song will come off as timely and in the now as it does today.

VIDEO PLAYLIST

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Thursday Morning Music Shuffle – Had it Blue Mix

Update: Apparently, I cannot spell music, which is not a good thing for a music blogger… corrected.

September is shaping up to be a great month for live music in Nashville (I’m not sure that there is a bad month for live music in Nashville, but still…).  I kicked things off a little early with a great night of music in East Nashville.  I saw the legendary David Olney (who has been a fixture in Nashville music for as long as I can remember) and his incredibly tight band (with E2TG favorite Mark Robinson standing in and killing it on guitar) doing a Happy Hour show at The 5 Spot.   Then I hopped over to East Nashville’s best dive bar, Fran’s Eastside to see another E2TG favorite Darrin Bradbury and Tim Carroll doing their weekly thing.

 

Well, we have another great shuffle of music today, so it’s get to it.

!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”); window.amznpubstudioTag = “eartothegro00-20”; http://ps-us.amazon-adsystem.com/domains/eartothegro00-20_3dcd3a52-1a1a-4afe-a2fd-aaba8e251afc.js “My Love” by Humming House (covering Justin Timberlake) from Humming House Party!

Nashville’s own Humming House decided to recreate the vibe of The Beach Boys’ Party!, and they threw a shindig at Eastside Manor.  You can get a little taste of what went down on Noisetrade.  The whole shebang can be had at iTunes.  Today’s track is a killer cover of a futuresex lovesounds era Justin Timberlake song.

“She Runs Hot” by Little Village from Little Village

Long before any of us had ever heard the term Americana, Little Village formed as the first Americana supergroup.  Featuring Nick Lowe, John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, and Jim Keltner; the band released one amazing album, did a tour, and then went out to continue making amazing music.

“The Wolves” by The End Men from Odds and Ends

An amazing version of this song was The End Men’s 2014 contribution to Couch by Couchwest. Man I love this song!

“People, Turn Around!” by Delta Spirit from Lost and Found

Another cool track from the new Delta Spirit outtakes sampler on Noisetrade.

“Have You Ever Had it Blue” by The Style Council from The Singular Adventures of the Style Council

After The Jam broke up Paul Weller continued and expanded on the Brit Soul sound evident in some of the later Jam music and formed The Style Council.  I think I’ve always had more of an affinity for The Jam, but I have to admit The Style Council had many great moments.

“The Bomb Stops Ticking” by The Grey A from My Country

I post this The Grey A track just ahead of the official release date of My Country and just over two weeks ahead of their Nashville release show with the realization that I have promised a full review.  I have a few full reviews I really want to do… I think it’s time to woodshed… can music bloggers woodshed or is that reserved for musicians. Should I come up with another term? plastic shedding? Anyway, this is a really great song and just one of many on a really great album which you can pre-order on The Grey A website.

“Work” by The End Men from Odds and Ends

It’s a two The End Men song day!  A not so subtle reminder this morning of where I was heading while listening to this shuffle.  I actually arrived in my building while this song was playing.

“Beggars’ Guild” (Acoustic) by Roadkill Ghost Choir from Slow Knife EP

Roadkill Ghost Choir is a great band name.  Fortunately, this Florida band lives up to the name with their great take on modern folk/rock music.  I grabbed some of their music on Noisetrade, and we will have more in the days and weeks to come.

VIDEOS

Wednesday Morning Music Shuffle – Bad Voodoo Mix

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My phone did feel heavier this morning – probably due to the nearly 100 songs I added to the current playlist.  How much does an MP3 file weigh anyway?

Ah- let’s jump into it…

“Blues de Bosco” by Rodney Crowell from Evangeline Made: a tribute to Cajun Music

On Record Store Day, while the cool kids were enduring the long lines for the rare vinyl releases, I was perusing the $1.00 CD bins looking for cool finds.  I came across this star-studded Cajun Music tribute from early in this century.  Americana standard bearer Rodney Crowell is from southern Mississippi which is about as close to Cajun country as you can get without being in South Louisiana.  The video is a version of this song from a New York City Cajun band named for a small town near where some of my family lives.

“Loud Loud Loud Loud Guitars” by Young Fresh Fellows from Songs for Slim – A Benefit Compilation for Slim Dunlap

Stick some cotton in your ears if you must… hell, I’ll likely be deaf before too long…

This reminds me of three things:  1.  Seeing Slim with the ‘Mats in the sweaty National Guard Armory in Nashville in the late 80s. 2.  Seeing Warren Zevon with the Odds at the Ace of Clubs in Nashville in the early 90s (it was one of the loudest shows I’ve ever experienced) and 3. that line from They Might Be Giants “She doesn’t have to have her Young Fresh Fellows tape back…” 

“Fury of the Light” by The Bones of J.R. Jones from Dark was the Yearling

The Bones of J.R. Jones is from Brooklyn and makes some incredible dark, rootsy, blues/folk music. I grabbed this from the July Feel Bad for You mixtape, and I have to hear more!

“Miller, Don’t You Even Care?” by The Grimm Generation from The Big Fame

The first of three tracks in today’s shuffle from perennial E2TG favorites The Grimm Generation.  What you need to know about The Grimm Generation:  They are from Connecticut, they make music deeply rooted in themes and influences of which I am all too familiar, and they are awesome.  Get The Big Fame  – as soon as you possibly can!

“The Big Fame” by The Grimm Generation from The Big Fame

The title track from the landmark album!

“French Quarter” by Delta Spirit from Lost and Found

Our second Louisiana-inspired song… Delta Spirit are from San Diego and currently reside in Brookyln, but as their name implies, the spirit of the Mississippi Delta runs all through their music.  This is from a free sampler released on Noisetrade ahead of the band’s fourth album which is due in just a couple of weeks.  It takes us to a post-Katrina New Orleans…

“Real Bad Voodoo” by The Grimm Generation from The Big Fame

We stay down in the Crescent city and wander into a strange shop with no distinguishable signage, filled with tables and shelves of trinkets and bottles… there is some real bad voodoo…

“Youth Culture Killed My Dog” by They Might Be Giants from First Album Live

In honor of yesterday being National Dog Day, we offer this first album gem from TMBG.  Damn you hipsters – stay out of my yard!
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“Kentucky” by Year of October from WDVX Blue Plate Special 4/12/2014

And we close things out with one of Year of Octobers prettiest and most heartfelt songs – about their home state.  This is the first track on Golden Days – their new album which you can pre-order now!

VIDEO PLAYLIST

Tuesday Morning Music Shuffle – Whiskey Thunder Mix

Another day, another cool mix of music….  Today we close out a few albums we’ve been spinning for some time, we have a track from one of the coolest and most underrated bands of all time, and we close things out with four tracks in a row from some Ear to the Ground favorites. 

In case you missed it (shameless self-promotion): Check out an audio rendition of a excerpt from my novel-in-progress… 

Shuffle begins right after the jump:

“deep on the inside” by The Lies from whatever

The Lies are from New Jersey.  Like 95% of all New Jersey bands I play, Popa’s Tunes helped make me aware of this rocking band.  We’ve been shuffling songs from their album whatever for a while now, and this really awesome track finishes up the album for us.  The Lies video is one of their contributions to the 2014 Couch by Couchwest (I’m willing to be Popa had a hand in that, too).

“The Bends” by Solardrive from Solardrive

For the second day in a row, we have music from Solardrive.  This closes out this album for us.  In case you are wondering, this is not a cover of the Radiohead song, but an incredible original which I think you will dig.

“Devil on my Back” by Stoney from More Than Animals

A deep blues vibe from Austin, Texas’ Stoney.  Another final track from an album we’ve been featuring for several months.

“Like Calling Up Thunder” by The Gun Club from Miami

You don’t know how much I love having a Gun Club song in my shuffle.  Fronted by the late, great Jeffrey Lee Pierce this California punk, blues band set so many standards, and they were already legendary during my formative musical years in the mid 80s.  This song sounds fresh and even progressive 32 years after the fact.

“Whiskey Rain” by The End Men from Odds and Ends

Reigning E2TG Band of the Year, The End Men return to the shuffle with another track from their latest collection.  Whiskey Rain shows the band at the top of their game.  The accompanying video is from a series of videos about the recording of the song from Songcraft. All the gearheads who read this blog should definitely check that shit out…

“Justice is Due” by Tomas Doncker  from Power of the Trinity

True Groove Global Soul!  Tomas Doncker Band from the Ethiopian influenced Power of the Trinity album with some killer sax work.

“Glory” by Mr. Kind from Wide Awake/Open Hands

The full EP Wide Awake/Open Hands is now available from Mr. Kind.  We’ve presented two of the tracks already.  Here is a third – showing Brian Bergeron and company doing what they do so well…

“Moanin’ at Midnight” by Tomas Doncker Band from Moanin’ at Midnight: The Howling Wolf Project

!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”); And we close out with an encore from The Tomas Doncker Band with the title track from their stunning Howlin’ Wolf tribute. 

VIDEOS

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Monday Morning Music Shuffle – Never Enough Mix

On a Monday which began with a spilled cup of coffee… (and did I mention it was Monday?) the shuffle comes up with a fine collection of music.  No oddball pop gems, none of the usual suspects, just a nice collection of cool music from around the country…

Oh – I recorded a new bit of short fiction to my Soundcloud account.  Check it if you want…

“Lovely” by Solardrive from Solardrive

Our penultimate track from the self-titled Solardrive album which we have been playing for several months.  A cool video accompanies co-directed by Solardrive front man Balthazar Getty.  Solardrive are based in L.A.

“Photographs and Fables”  by Mission South from Migration Vol. 2

Mission South were from D.C. I became a fan after seeing their exuberant performance at The Basement last fall.  Sadly, they broke up just a few months after that, but they left behind some nifty songs.

“Desert Ground” by The Western Den from The Battle Hymn EP

The Western Den are from Boston.  Just a little ambient folk for the shuffle.

“Happy Man” by Sparklehorse from Distorted Ghost EP

The late great Mark Linkous was from North Carolina. This is a sweet song made sadder by time and circumstances…

“Burning Jacob’s Ladder” by Mark Lanegan from Mark Lanegan

A survivor of the Seattle grunge scene.  This is just a purely great song.

“Hide Away Folk Family” by They Might Be Giants from First Album Live

Again, I am reminded of the awesomeness of the first TMBG album.  They Might be from Brooklyn… There May Be Giants.

“Willy’s Song” by Rayland Baxter from Feathers and Fishhooks

Nashville represents….  Man I love this song. Don’t fly away…

“Never Enough” by Trixie Whitley from Fourth Corner

Trixie Whitley is the daughter of Chris Whitley and she is part of Black Dub with super producer Daniel Lanois.  This is good information to have, but it is secondary to the amazing talent and ability evident in this track from her debut full-length solo album.  She is from New York and Ghent.

“SheshBesh” by The Plum Magnetic from Terra Animata!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”);

We finish things up with some amazing fusion/world music from New Orleans.

VIDEOS

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