Tag Archives: New Orleans

New Album from TJ Kong & The Atomic Bomb

TJ Kong & The Atomic Bomb – Dancing Out the Door

TJ Kong & The Atomic Bomb are a sweltering, sweaty, August New Orleans evening. As the humidity smothers the Decatur Street denizens, this is the soundtrack for the locals ducking into a cozy neighborhood bar where they are greeted with filthy, soulful music.

Continue reading New Album from TJ Kong & The Atomic Bomb

Delta Saints Death Letter Jubilee Album Review


From the opening notes of the searing rocker “Liar,” you’ll be captivated by this bluesy rock quintet out of Nashville.  They call themselves The Delta Saints – the “Delta” component is apparent throughout the album, but listening to the lyrics you’ll quickly realize they’re not quite “Saints.”  They refer to their fans as Sinners and Saints; that definitely seems more appropriate.

These guys offer up a unique blend best described as Southern Rock on this, their debut full-length offering.  It’s a diverse album, parts Bayou Blues, Chicago Soul and New Orleans Funk. It’s a nice mix and well worth a listen.  The band has captured the essence of Mississippi roots rock in its many different forms throughout the thirteen tracks of Death Letter Jubilee. It’s a creative, fresh rock album that just oozes cool rock swagger.

The talented group evokes memories of numerous Southern Rockers, but the comparison I am drawn the most to is a more modern Little Feat.  If you were a fan of Jeff Beck’s 80’s super-group Box of Frogs, and their distinctive guitar work, you’ll definitely enjoy these guys, too.

Songs like “Sing To Me,” and “Death Letter Jubilee” are swampy rockers that would feel just perfect listening to them while kicking back on the porch of a bayou shack sipping your favorite beverage from a mason jar. Ben Ringel’s vocals are gritty and passionate and the band offers plenty of dobro and harmonica giving them a unique down home feel. “Devil’s Creek” is of the same vein and is a rocking Cajun jam.

My favorite track is the slinky “From the Dirt” which is just a cool groove, and also features dynamic vocals. The aforementioned “Liar” which kicks off the album is driven by a fantastic bass line and is another very strong offering.

It’s a diverse album, but it’s all good old fashioned rock.  You’ll get the soulful feel of “Chicago” and then travel South to New Orleans for “Nola” and the easy New Orleans swagger of “Boogie.”

It’s a good album and a nice way to start the year for rock music fans.

The album goes on sale today, Tuesday, January 15th. Check it out below on iTunes.

Rock On!
Cretin

Fred LeBlanc Interview, Part 2


We continue with our conversation with Cowboy Mouth founder and front man, Fred LeBlanc.

You can read Part 1 of the Interview here: Cowboy Mouth’s Fred LeBlanc

Cretin: The first time I heard about the band, my brother told me about the show and how unique it was with the drummer front and center on the stage.  He said it worked, and obviously he was right.

Fred LeBlanc:  It’s something I always knew about myself.  I had a certain vision for the way I saw myself and the things I could do.  There are certain things I’ve had to adjust to make the whole drummer/front man thing work. I sit on a riser, so I’m not taller than anybody, but I’m not shorter either. I play with only one symbol and a small drum kit so people can see me.  There’s more of an eye contact approach, and that really works.

Cretin: Sure, that helps build that connection you have with the crowd.

Fred LeBlanc: Exactly. And, it also let’s me set the tone and pace of the show. If I feel something isn’t right, I can change it right away, or if the energy gets intense, I might speed up a little, but hey, it’s rock and roll, ya know?

Cretin: It’s more fluid, and your shows are definitely fluid.

Fred LeBlanc: All of the best rock and roll moves in and out, in and out. These days when you listen to radio, everything is so perfect. There’s no swing to it. Put on headphones sometime and listen to Sticky Fingers or Beggars Banquet from the Stones. It’s a mess, guitars are out of tune, drums speed up and slow down but you know what? It works, because it’s human. It moves, it interacts with itself. It’s an organic beast.

Cretin: You’re right. It was raw passionate stuff, whereas a lot of today’s stuff is over-produced, and devoid of passion.

Fred LeBlanc: Yeah. I’m not one to say that all music needs to be recorded on one microphone through a Victorolla.  I use pro tools, too.  It’s the standard, but at the same time you have to remember to master the machine and not have the machine be your master. I try to communicate an idea, an emotion, so that the listener experiences those same things. With music, a straight line is not always the shortest path.

Cretin: You and John Thomas Griffith have been together for all fifteen years, how did that pairing come about?

Fred LeBlanc: It’s funny, because I started Cowboy Mouth with two other musicians and we had rehearsed for two months, and it was just terrible. I was about to give up. Nothing was clicking at all. Nothing against the other musicians; we just weren’t compatible. I got the idea to call Griff in and gave him a couple of songs and he learned them fast. Literally, within three seconds we went from really sucking as a three-piece to really being great as a four-piece. It was really that instantaneous. It was one of the wildest moments of my life. I was like “Did everybody else hear that?”

Cretin: Good stuff.

Fred LeBlanc: I love playing with Griff. Lord knows we’ve had our ups and downs over the years. I’m sure as much as we both love each other, there are just as many times we drive either other nuts and want to kill each other. That’s just the nature of bands. He and I, we play well together. We both play with a lot of force. We’re the same kind of players, which is really good. The band that we have now with Cass and Matt is one of the strongest we’ve ever had. We’ve never had a bad version of this band, thankfully.

Cretin: What’s next for the band? We’ve heard rumors of another studio album being close to fruition.

Fred LeBlanc: I’m almost finished it. I have a studio here at the house and have almost all of the tracks done, and I just need to tweak it a bit and hope to have it out in the next month and a half. You’ll have to check out our website and Facebook page to see how we do it; we’re going to try something a little different this time.

Cretin: Sounds interesting. We’ll keep an ear out for it.

RARA’s Six-Pack. Six fun, mindless questions

You’re favorite Saints player ever ? Man, that’s like choosing your favorite child. I’d have to say Steve Gleason. He was always this happy get back to the earth guy, who sort of stumbled into football. A really cool guy. The first year after Katrina, the Saints made a great run. Cowboy Mouth had played outside the stadium before the first game of the season, and I was predicting we’d go to the Super Bowl. Early in the game he blocked a punt and I always say it was that moment the Saints fortunes turned around.

He’s a great guy and he’s been diagnosed with ALS. He’s started a foundation that people should look up, and give to, if they possibly could. (Editor: check it out here: Steve Gleason Foundation)

Your favorite city to play in? New Orleans. I’m biased, what can I say?

Favorite Cover Song: A band out of Athens called Five-Eight. They did a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “I Can’t Stand It.” They’re great and they’ve been around as long as we have. Their lead singer, Mike (Mantione) has one of the most under-heard voices in rock. He’s an insanely talented guy, and they’re a great band.

If you could share the stage with any one band, past or present? The Clash or Lee Dorsey.  That would be fun. (we proceeded to have a long conversation on The Clash, and both clearly agree they’re one of the greatest rock bands EVER)

Favorite local bar in New Orleans? I’m a big fan of Carrollton Station. Great vibe in a good little neighborhood, it’s easy. That’s my favorite place. It’s not a typical New Orleans bar, it’s away from The French Quarter. There’s places like Le Bon Temps Roule which is a good bar. The Balcony Bar is great, too.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever signed after a show? An infant. I signed his forehead “Trouble maker.”

Rock On (Are You With Me Edition) – Cretin

A Few Minutes with Fred LeBlanc – The Patron Saint of Mardi Gras

The moment these guys take the stage, you know you’re in for a special evening. They’re synonymous with New Orleans Rock ‘n Roll and their shows are a little bit different than the typical rock show. Cowboy Mouth performances are energetic, passionate and powerful experiences, driven by the heart and soul of the band, their front man, drummer Fred LeBlanc. Yup, that’s right, their drummer is front and center, belting out vocals, leading the band and energizing the crowd all while wailing away on the drums; and damn, it really works.

LeBlanc and lead guitarist/vocalist John Thomas Griffith have been together for 15+ years, playing straight from the heart rock ‘n’ roll and impressing throngs of fans with their one-of-a-kind performances.  They do it all with an unabashed connection to their beloved New Orleans, where they’ve basically become the Unofficial Band of Mardi Gras. If Cowboy Mouth is the Rock Band of Mardi Gras, Fred LeBlanc is surely The Patron Saint.  We were able to carve a few minutes of his studio time to chat about the band, his city and Cowboy Mouth’s unique connection with their fans.

Cretin: When rock music fans think about the New Orleans music scene, typically the first band they think of is Cowboy Mouth. Is that something you’re proud of?

Fred LeBlanc: Yeah, I’m definitely proud of that.  My whole career I’ve been trying to show that you don’t have to go to a big media center to make a living in music. But with the advent of the web and all of the other advances over the last ten to fifteen years (it’s easier). I tend to look at being in the music business like owning a small business. I’ve always found that it’s better when you’re that exotic visitor from out of town.

Cretin: Yeah, rather than being one of many in a large market?

Fred LeBlanc: That’s tough trying to come in and mark out some of somebody else’s turf. It’s always better to be a visitor, to go somewhere and get out. And it helps if it’s from some place colorful like New Orleans. Growing up I didn’t really have a sense that New Orleans was so different. It’s not until you’ve traveled around that you realize there’s no po boys in Atlanta, there’s no red beans and rice in Norflok, Virginia. New Orleans tends to celebrate its highs and lows. Our ability to laugh at ourselves for the things that are both positive and negative about the city is a unique spin on life.

Cretin: For folks from New Orleans, including Cowboy Mouth, you seem to wear your emotions right there for everyone to see, whether it’s joy or sadness.

Fred LeBlanc: You know, we played a show in New Orleans last Sunday at The Mardi Gras festival and before we played “I Believe” we mixed it with an older song I wrote called “The Avenue.” It was written right after Katrina. I didn’t want to write anything angry or pointing fingers, I wanted to write a song that was like a musical arm around the shoulders to say “Hey, this is bad, but everything will be okay.”  Coupling that with “I Believe” on this tour shows that we’ve been to the bottom, we’ve been to hell and back, and we got back due to our faith in each other as people and in our community.

Cretin: You’re right the city’s recovery came a lot from inside the community.

Fred LeBlanc: That’s kind of like the whole Cowboy Mouth idea. In the song “I Believe” it’s about how faith above everything else can bring out the very best of you in terms of strength.  It’s the act of having faith and what that creates inside the human spirit to make us go above and beyond.

Cretin: So, getting back to Katrina, you guys had some personnel changes right after Katrina. Did that event have any impact on the way you approached music and your shows?

 Fred LeBlanc: No, I think it reinforced what we did. We had some personnel changes after Katrina, but those were coming long before Katrina anyway. Keeping a bunch of musicians focused is a very difficult thing, because musicians by definition tend to follow their own muse. We’ve had people in the band who’ve wanted to go do their own thing, and that’s fine. When people part it’s never pretty, but you need to wish them the best and move forward. You go through all of the crappy emotions, but eventually time heels everything… It’s just life, and you learn as you go on.

Cretin: I think that’s why you connect so well with the crowd. A lot of the lyrics and themes to the songs are things people can relate to, even people who’ve never seen Cowboy Mouth before.

Fred LeBlanc: Well, thank you. When I formed the band, my goal was to create something kind of spiritual. I grew up Catholic.  I wanted to believe, but it was all about “you’re an original sinner, you’re terrible,” and then the things that took place with some of the priests; it shook your faith. I had a friend of mine in New Orleans, I’d sneak out of the house on Sunday morning because they had a black Gospel church and these people were just going to town, dancing and screaming, raising a ruckus, and they all left in the best mood, feeling great as a community. I left thinking “I want to do that.” And, I wanted to bring that to rock and roll.

Cretin: The Gospel roots definitely come through in your shows.

Fred LeBlanc: I wanted to bring that energy to rock and roll without limiting it to a certain religious message.  As far as religion goes, the worst thing you can do is limit the almighty.  I tried to write about things that everybody goes through, you know, “write what what you know.” It was not trying to make grandiose statements, it was more “Hey, this is what I’ve been through. Here’s how I got through it. Isn’t it great to be alive?”

Cretin: And, a lot of people resonate to that.

Fred LeBlanc: They seem to. I’ve been doing this 22 years, so obviously I’m doing something right. I also think that with Cowboy Mouth, I get a lot of attention for being the front man. It’s not about me just saying “Ain’t I wonderful, Ain’t I the shit?” No, I take all of that energy the audience is enthusiastic to give and I just focus it back on them.

Cretin: I’ve tried to describe Cowboy Mouth shows to people who have never seen the band nor know the music very well. It’s hard to compare to any other show, but I say it’s a combination of passion, good music and almost a feeling of togetherness, which no one else can replicate. It’s something unique that you guys do really well.

Fred LeBlanc: When people leave a Cowboy Mouth show, they feel good.  How much these days is designed to make people feel good about themselves? Look at mass media, it’s designed to keep us scared. A Cowboy mouth show is a celebration of yourself.  I’m not really into the status thing or trying to play cool. I have no problem of being looked at as some kind of musical court jester, because at the end of the day, the court jester is the only one who can tell the truth to the king.

Cretin: You mention how your shows are different; there are other drummers who play huge roles for their bands: Don Henley, Dave Grohl and Phil Collins, but none of them do it the way you do. You’re the only guy who is front and center. Was that something you drove?

Fred LeBlanc: I got tired of sitting in the back and watching guitar players butts who weren’t better singers. I thought “I’m a better singer, why am I in the back? My songs are more hooky and better than that guy’s songs.” The truth of the matter is I kind of just got tired of it. I got tired of the whole “You’re just a drummer shut up.” I had put together a nice backlog of songs, and I quit the band. As good as the band was, it was really just a crazy drug psycho-fueled, wild hayride, but I needed to get away from it. It got to the point where I needed to do something because this is killing me. It wasn’t just killing my body, it was killing my soul.

So, that’s it for part one. We’ll have part two posted on Fat Tuesday as we continue our chat with the Patron Saint of Mardi Gras...