Free Funk

Discussion in 'Events and Festivals' started by cptbli, Jan 24, 2005.

  1. cptbli

    cptbli Member

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    Billy Iuso
    Restless Natives

    On his latest CD Restless Natives New Orleans
    transplant Billy Iuso seems to have matured greatly.
    Focusing on songwriting and structure rather than
    lengthy jams that go nowhere, Iuso has crafted a nice
    collection of songs – a wonderful accomplishment from
    a member of the New Orleans jam-oriented community.
    He recently told me, “I’m not trying to be a ‘rock
    star’ anymore.” This new, laid back, attitude shines
    through the music, combining an impressive breadth of
    original compositions with interesting covers. For
    this latest project, Iuso’s Restless Natives consist
    of some of New Orleans’ top (if not nationally known)
    musicians. The core band consists of Iuso on guitar
    and vocals, “Mean” Willie Green (Neville Brothers) on
    drums, Mark Pero (Papa Grows Funk) on bass, Sam
    Hotchkiss (juice) on guitar, and Chris Marsceill on
    keys, and a large array of New Orleans musicians make
    appearances throughout.

    Iuso is cut from the “Peace through Music” cloth, an
    ideal which shines through in the opener, a cover of
    Wet Willie’s “Keep on Smiling.” The opening tune adds
    vocalist Shannon McNally and has a definite Southern
    tone like to original, reminding me of smoky juke
    joints as well as sunny day outdoor festivals. In a
    word, it is “happy.” What can I say? I like happy.
    The next tune, an original named “Two Deep in the
    Shadows” is a swamp-a-delic rendezvous that glides
    down smooth and mellow. Iuso’s maturing songwriting
    skills allow the song to feel funky but not forced.
    Chris Marsceill takes center stage on “Come C New
    Orleans,” a Professor Longhair inspired instrumental
    which would be a hit at any Carnival party. The
    Natives take on Little Feat’s “Spanish Moon” is simply
    wonderful. The horn section consisting of Kirk Joseph
    (Dirty Dozen) on sousaphone, Mark Mullins (Bonerama)
    on trombone and Satoru Ohashi (New Orleans
    Nightcrawlers) on trumpet take the song to the streets
    and give it a Crescent City feel. Tamika Jett’s added
    vocals lend some soul that fills in the sound. “Your
    Just a Memory” follows. The simple song structure and
    autowah guitar fit perfectly together, giving the
    lyrics a chance to shine forth and the song a chance
    to breathe. Iuso’s time spent in New Orleans comes
    through in “The Heavy,” a dark funk tune drive by
    clavinet and Ryan Plattsmier’s (the public) bass work.
    An interesting cover of the Grateful Dead’s “The
    Other One” follows. I call it interesting because it
    is strays from the original into dark and funky
    territory, and does it well. Taking a quick left turn
    into instrumental jazz territory, “Da Minor Jam”
    features Pero’s bass and drummer Bryan Besse trading
    licks back and forth in a tasteful show of talent.
    Nori Naraoka (Big Sam’s Funky Nation) joins on bass as
    Iuso remains in mellow jazz mode for the final cut
    entitled “Candle,” a ballad that rounds out and winds
    down the project. Not to leave on a mellow note, Iuso
    recruits Ivan Neville (Dumpsta Funk) and Russell
    Batiste (funky Meters) for the “bonus” cut “Runnin
    High” a straight-ahead funk romp that reminds me why I
    like Iuso’s music in the first place – he rocks. But
    don’t tell him I said so.

    Jeffrey Dupuis / Jambase

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