For the most part I still get music the old fashioned way: order a CD and wait a couple of days for it to show up. I like the suspense. I also like being able to check out the packaging and flip through the liner notes while listening. (All the more rewarding, in this case, where the artwork is a mesmerizing confusion of images that will stand up to many revisitations!) So earlier this week when Galactic’s new album Ya-Ka-May showed up, I waited until the end of the day and listened to it on the drive home. Before I knew it, I was speeding. Kind of…a lot.
The reason I picked it up in the first place is the group’s drummer, Stanton Moore. I got turned on to him years ago and I get just about everything he puts out. With a tight high-hat and kicking bass back beat he just might be the funkiest kit out there. It’s just the sound you want with New Orleans-flavored grooves. Which brings me to the real heart and soul of this recording: post-Katrina N’awlins. Blues, jazz, dixie, Creole, Cajun, Zydeco, hip-hop, soul, boogie-woogie, stride…where else in the world can claim so many native styles of music? Part of the answer here is that N’awlins has always acknowledged its special place as a confluence (geographical and musical), aggregating styles and influences and reshaping them into something wholly fresh. In the same way the mighty river itself accumulates various parts of the lands it passes through, before depositing them all at the delta – Ya-Ka-May encompasses the many unique sounds and styles of the Crescent City and delivers them anew in a wild, irresistable mix. A few of my fave tracks are Katey vs. Nobby, Do It Again, and Heart of Steel.
Ya-Ka-May is a party album, with unrelenting bounce beats and more guest vocalists (Allen Toussaint, John Boutté, Irma Thomas, Cheeky Blakk, Bo Dollis) than any previous Galactic project. Add to that gumbo harmonicas, cellos, accordions, and a generous overlay of samples from sources as diverse as traditional Hungarian and African music. It’s intense, it’s hardcore, and it’s a wholesale celebration of the continuing evolution of music from the special city that is New Orleans. Here’s a bit more on the album’s background:
(PS – what, no Parental Advisory sticker here? Um, OK…)