BACK TO THE SECOND LINE


Mary Jane Hooper: Don’t Change Nothing
I Feel a Hurt
From Psychedelphia (Funky Delicacies, 1997)

I was recently working on a 3 hour, NOLA-inspired consignment mix and it gave me a wonderful excuse to revisit all sorts of tunes, especially the slim but memorable catalog of Mary Jane Hooper, one of the best female vocalists to come out of the Crescent City. Hooper’s “I’ve Got Reasons” was one of the few releases she enjoyed back in the day but in the late ’90s, a mess of her unreleased material finally made it out.

The two cuts above both made the final mix. “Don’t Change Nothing” opens great with that breakbeat and bass but it’s when Hooper’s hook kicks in that I’m officially onboard. Love the chorus on this song especially; totally sells the song for me.

With “I Feel a Hurt,” Hooper delivers a beautiful Southern soul ballad over a heaving organ track. Don’t have much to say about this one except to sigh contentedly.

Smokey Johnson: It Ain’t My Fault Pt. 1
From 7″ (NOLA, 1964). Also on It Ain’t My Fault

Betty Harris: There’s a Break In the Road
From 7″ (SSS Int’l, 1969)

Surprised I hadn’t posted up the Smokey Johnson before; it’s a stone-cold second line classic. Just dig the complexity of Johnson’s polyrhythms and you can easily hear the roots of funk layered all in there. “Ba-donk donk donk.”

Fast-forward five years and you arrive at Betty Harris, backed by the Meters, on her best known single, “There’s a Break In the Road.” I have to say – I never get tired of hearing the Meters play behind other artists. They have such a distinctive sound and as good as their own group material obviously was, to hear them working with an array of vocalists is an added bonus.

Skip Easterling: Grass Is Greener
From 7″ (Alon, 1967)

Besides that Hooper ballad, one of the other closers was this tune from Skip Easterling, who, like Harris, worked with local production legend Allen Toussaint (though this single was produced by Eddie Bo, who I should have noted earlier, produce Hooper’s material). The sound here is so distinct with its slow, swampy, swing; it could only come from New Orleans.

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6 comments to BACK TO THE SECOND LINE

  • Adrian

    I was wondering where I’d heard of Smokey Johnson before and why his style seemed familiar. I just remembered that Theresa Andersson (a New Orleans artist) samples “I Can’t Help It” on her song “Birds Fly Away”. When I saw her live she dropped the sample (from vinyl) live into her sampling pedal. Not your style of stuff, I imagine, but it’s certainly another great beat from Johnson.  

  • Larry Grogan

    Odub
    Easterling made ‘The Grass Is Greener’ with Eddie Bo, after Toussaint parted ways with Joe Banashak.
    Not sure about the Mary jane Hooper, but she recorded most of her sides with Bo as well.
    Larry

  • Kurt

    Hi Oliver, loving that Betty Harris … you got any other favourites in the ‘Meters backing another artist’ category you want to namecheck?

  • OW

    Cyril Neville’s sole single is one outstanding example: “Gossip” b/w “Tell Me What’s On Your Mind” but there’s a few Lee Dorsey joints that have the Meters on ’em too that come to mind. 

  • OW

    Larry, thanks for the correction!

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