(Photo courtesy of Parallel 44)
August 8 at 9pm
When you think of New Orleans, the city’s foremost flambeaux-lit traditions of Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, voodoo, Po’ boys, beads, gumbo and second line undoubtedly come to mind. You can also count Big Sam’s Funky Nation amongst those NOLA treasures.
Known for a boisterous blend of funk, jazz, rock, and hip-hop, nothing short of seismic live “experiences,” and a whole lot of Southern charm, Big Sam’s Funky Nation might very well be The Big Easy’s best kept secret.
No other place could birth such an undeniable, unpredictable, and downright unique collective.
The frontman personally draws on over two decades in the game, spanning everything from 300 shows per year during his days in Dirty Dozen Brass Band and gigs backing up Widespread Panic and Dave Matthews Band to recording and touring with Allen Toussaint and Elvis Costello. Additionally, he would be sought out for a recurring role on the critically acclaimed HBO series Treme.
Following the release of 2014’s rock-leaning Evolution (and yet another marathon of gigs), Big Sam wanted to “bring the funk like never before . ” So, he decided to “write originals that show how cats like Morris Day & The Time, The Gap Band, P-Funk , inspired [him]—while not just repeating the past.” The group accomplish this mission on their aptly titled 2018 sixth full-length Songs in the Key of Funk, Volume 1. Spending just five days at The Parlor Recording Studio in New Orleans, Big Sam’s Funky Nation emerged from the studio with an album tailormade for singing, dancing and, of course, partying.
“We’re going to keep the funk alive,” he affirms. “This is just Volume 1. It’s just the beginning. Stevie Wonder made one of my favorites: Songs in the Key of Life. I thought it would be hip to build on the title. Funk is life for me. Funk is everything. We all need some of it in our lives, so guess who’s here to give it to you?”
Funk is served up piping hot on the first single Poke Chop. On the track, a simmering beat punctuated by seventies-style synths gives way to lively horns, handclaps, and howls. Merging bounce energy and jazz virtuosity, the call-and-response culminates on Big Sam chanting a hometown phrase, “Show me what you got for a poke chop.”