21 Essential New Orleans Records for Fat Tuesday

Posted by Amoebite, February 8, 2016 04:01pm | Post a Comment

21 Essentisl New Orleans Records for Fat Tuesday

If you are just dipping your toe into the mighty muddy Mississippi-sludge sounds of New Orleans music, here is a list to get your mojo workin', courtesy of members of the Amoeba family who are lifelong New Orleans music fanatics.

KAREN: The New Orleans sound is that rare gumbo of musical complements: a meaty stew of blues, R&B, jazz, African rhythms, Cuban, French, country Cajun, hip hop and so much more. But what defines New Orleans music? That is the unanswerable question. You can say it's this or it's that — it's the syncopation or the bass or the raw, funky rhythm. But really it's the soul of the music — the undefinable "Get Down" or "Get On Up." This is the music that carries your soul down the block on a second-line funeral procession — and gets your feet dancing in a musky club on Frenchman Street. It is playful. Funky. Deep and swampy. Raw and dirty. Mournful. Plaintive. And everything in between. It isn't defined by a drum beat. Or maybe it is. You've just got to listen for yourself.

Here are my top picks for records you need to own. Essential New Orleans listening, in no particular order. This is my own Dirty Dozen:

the wild tchoupitoulas

The Wild Tchoupitoulas - The Wild Tchoupitoulas

This has to be my favorite New Orleans record of all time. Even though it is hard to pick just one, this would have to be it. FUNKY. F-U-N-K-A-A-A-Y! Backed by the original Meters and produced by the late, great Allen Toussaint, this was one of the most original recordings to jump out of New Orleans with a true flavor of the Mardi Gras Indians call-and-response rhythm.

Professor Longhair Rock & Roll Gumbo

Professor Longhair - Rock 'n' Roll Gumbo

The Professor, "Fess" as he was known through his career, was the MASTER of "Barrelhouse" Boogie-Woogie piano playing. An infectious, upbeat rolling jazz joynt that became popular in saloons and juke joints of New Orleans and beyond. The wild two-beat accent syncopation and improvised riffs started with Jelly Roll Morton, and FESS took it to another level.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band Voodoo

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band - Voodoo

Be-bop and R&B. Super tight and funky to the max. With Dr. John and Dizzy Gillespie as well as DOZENS of New Orleans FUNKSTERS.

the wild magnolias cd

The Wild Magnolias - The Wild Magnolias

Like the WILD TCHOUPITOULAS record, this is a staple of New Orleans' Mardi Gras Indian chants and rhythms.   The call-and-response-style anthems of the traditional Mardi Gras Indian battles is something to behold. Big chief Bo Dollis was the head of the Wild Magnolias tribe until his death in 2015.


the meters rejuvenation cd

The Meters - Rejuvenation


irma thomas soul queen of new orleans cd

Irma Thomas - The Soul Queen of New Orleans

The Queen of New Orleans Soul. Irma Thomas is STILL going strong.

mem shannon cab driver's blues lp

Mem Shannon - Cab Driver's Blues

This is the real deal. A genuine slice of a cab driver/blueman's life. Great guitar riffs interspersed with snippets of real conversations from the cab! Now that's the blues.


shirley & lee let the good times roll cd

Shirley & Lee - Let the Good Times Roll

Playful, rollicking R&B from the '50s and into the '60s, Shirley & Lee sang the original version of "Let The Good Times Roll," a New Orleans all-time classic. Shirley & Lee are Big Easy R&B defined!

Lee Dorsey Yes We Can

Lee Dorsey - Yes We Can

Earthy and soulful collection of sophisticated New Orleans R&B. As defined by Toussaint-penned classics and Dorsey's voice. One of the greatest unsung soul albums of all time!

nevill brothers anthology

The Neville Brothers - Anthology

The preeminent New Orleans family, the Nevilles, were the base of the amazingly funky METERS and morphed into the soulful, R&B and jazzy Neville Brothers. Their music is timeless, and this double-record set brings it all together. 

earl king come on cd

Earl King - Come On

If there ever was anyone with the Mississippi River running through his veins, it was Earl King. This recent comp collects the blues guitarists classics, including sonsg like "Trick Bag," "Those Lonely, Lonely Nights" and the title track.

Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans

Various Artists - Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans

Sure, this might be cheating a bit, but ... this is an essential piece of anyone's collection if you love New Orleans funk and soul.

And ya gotta remember Fats Domino and Louis Armstrong are the quintessential New Orleans ambassadors, along with Jelly Roll Morton. These guys created what we now know and feel is the New Orleans spirit. And their energy breathes through their music to this day. So make sure you pick up Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five and Louis Armstrong & His Hot Seven, Fats Domino, and Jelly Roll Morton. Jazz, as we know it, starts here. And don't forget the keepers of the flame: Trombone Shorty, Mystikal and Galactic.

To delve even further into New Orleans, check out this cool list: A History of New Orleans Music in 100 Tracks Part One and Part Two.


the hot 8 brass band vicennial lp

The Hot 8 Brass Band - Vicennial: 20 Years of The Hot 8 Brass Band

In honor of the band’s 20th anniversary, the Hot 8 have released this collection of songs both new and old. The Hot 8 Brass Band built a global reputation through the popularity of their cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” which some may recognize from the fantastic film Chef (it is included here but in an abbreviated form). This collection features many of their most popular tunes, along with a couple notable new recordings of the The Temptations' “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” and the gospel standard "We Shall Walk Through The Streets Of the City."


dr. john the atco atlantic singles 1968-1974 lp

Dr. John - The ATCO/Atlantic Singles (1968-1974)

It’s so hard to pick just one album from the early days of Dr. John’s career, when he was recording alongside members of the Meters and Allen Toussaint. Luckily you don’t have to!  Nearly all of his best work is here in this collection of singles from the funkiest years of the Nite Tripper. 

allen toussaint souther nights lp

Allen ToussaintSouthern Nights

Allen Toussaint was truly one of the greatest and most influential American songwriters and producers of the 20th Century.  His soul touched the world through his collaborations with artists such as the Meters, Labelle, Dr.John, Fats Domino, the Pointer Sisters, Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello.  He wrote some of the most iconic New Orleans Funk & Soul and has been sampled heavily in Hip Hop and R&B.  Southern Nights is a beautifully crafted masterpiece from start to finish and exemplifies Toussaint’s unique approach to both song writing and the New Orleans piano sound.  Recently reissued on 180 gram vinyl!

soul rebels unlock your mind

The Soul Rebels Unlock Your Mind

The Soul Rebels represent the next evolution of New Orleans street music, taking the influences of the Rebirth to a whole new level. Unlock Your Mind includes blazing hot covers of the Euryhtmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” Stevie Wonder’s “Living For the City” and Allen Toussaint’s “Night People,” and several originals, such as “I Made It” and the local New Orleans anthem “504.” Since this was recorded in 2011, the Soul Rebels released a mixtape and toured extensively performing with hip hop legends like Rakim, Slick Rick and Black Thought.  Definitely one to watch for the future!

rebirth brass band live maple leaf cd

Rebirth Brass Band – Live at the Maple Leaf

Local favorites the Rebirth Brass Band are known for blending the New Orleans Brass Bands traditions with the sounds of Funk, Soul, R&B and Hip Hop. While their studio albums such as Throwback, Move Your Body and Grammy Award winning the Rebirth of New Orleans are all spectacular, nothing can capture the spirit of a New Orleans party quite like their live show.  This live set from 1998 includes covers of Bill Withers, TLC and the Rolling Stones.  There are also 3 bonus studio cuts including their ferocious cover of Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers “Bustin Loose”.  Check out the work of snare drummer Derrick Tabb’s Roots of Music Foundation ( to see what seeds are being planted for the future.

galactic ya-ka-may cd


Galactic is one of those rare bands with an ever evolving sound that somehow remains its own. Their latest album, Into the Deep, covers the sweet sounds of Mississippi Soul, drawing inspiration from both Memphis and the Crescent City. But it is 2010’s Ya-Ka-May that is their most essential album, where they collaborate with both the legends of New Orleans and their contemporaries. Standout tracks include features from Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, Big Chief Bo Dollis, the Rebirth Brass Band, Trombone Shorty, Corey Henry and Glen David Andrews. It is quite ambitious to bring so many different elements of New Orleans music together with cohesion, and Galactic does it flawlessly.

treme traditions cd

Treme Brass Band/Mardi Gras Indians Treme Traditions

The Treme Brass Band are the torchbearers for the traditions of New Orleans second line. Their sound brings together the influence of the Mardi Gras Indians along with folk and jazz standards. This album provides some of the best renditions of iconic tunes such as “It AIn’t My Fault,” “Shallow Water,”  “Golden Crown,” “Jesus On the Mainline,” “Big Chief”and “Hey Pocky Way.”

trombone shorty say that to say this lp

Trombone Shorty Say That To Say This

Trombone Shorty is perhaps of the most charismatic and celebrated New Orleans musicians of this generation. His unique mix of funk, rock and jazz (a musical gumbo he describes as "super funk rock") has taken him around the world to perform alongside icons such as U2, Green Day and Earth, Wind & Fire.  In the last couple of years he’s performed at the White House, released a children’s book and played sessions for some of contemporary music’s greatest talents. But beyond being just a badass horn player, multi-instrumentalist and singer, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews also is a great songwriter. Produced by R&B legend Raphael Saadiq, Say That To Say This is Trombone Shorty’s best work to date, expressing both his reverence for the culture that raised him and his desire to chart his own path. One listen and you’ll see why he’s been chosen to be the closing act at New Orleans' annual Jazz Fest.

the meters self-titled lp

The Meters - The Meters

The Meters’ self-titled 1969 debut is one of the most seminal works of funk music ever recorded, inspiring countless imitators. Though often covered and sampled, nothing can match this original set of laid-back grooves from New Orleans’ greatest quartet. This is an essential pick for any record collector or music lover.



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New Orleans (56), Essential Records (35), Mardi Gras (24), Fat Tuesday (19), Jazz (150), Soul (41), Funk (26), The Meters (5), Allen Toussaint (7), The Dirty Dozen Brass Band (1), The Neville Brothers (1), Dr. John (5), Lists (63)