Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Album Review: John "Papa" Gros - Central City

John "Papa" Gros
Central City
***and1/2 out of *****

He was the electro-key backbone of Papa Gros Funk, but even before that, John Papa Gros was an New Orleans aficionado. On his most recent solo release he has shifted gears away from the elongated funk instrumentals towards an album of covers and originals in traditional New Orleans fashion. The R&B, boogie-woogie and original rock and roll seeps through Gros tunes and the covers he presents on Central City.

The album is full of joy as Gros kicks it off with a tribute to the albums title area of New Orleans through a virtual tour and history lesson. "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" is singalong ready stroll through the town and tunes which he loves and helped shape Gros sound. One of the strongest songs is playful cover of Alex McMurray's "All My Rivers" complete with tambourine shakes.

Gros supporting cast is a whose who of modern day New Orleans All-Stars as he brings onboard George Porter Jr., drummer Herlin Riley, Ivan Neville, banjoist Don Vappie, guitarist Brian Stoltz, trumpeter Mark Braud, trombonist Mark Mullins and clarinetist Tim Laughlin for various tracks.

"Deep In The Mud" goes full on NOLA with a marching brass band sound, swinging as it second lines it's way forward while the swamp blues "Old Joe's Turkey" brings back Gros electric piano with banjo and deep bass. Two classic covers "Personality" and "It's Raining" are played surprisingly close to the vest and could use free wheeling charm like the spin Gros gives his cover of John Prine's "Please Don't Bury Me", an amazingly crafted rendition of this tune.

Gros gets his name in the parade party game with an original simply titled "Mardi Gras" which has a host of influences vigorously coursing through it in celebratory fashion while "Gone So Long" continues the combination of influences in tasty sonic gumbo fashion. The album wraps up with "You Do It" which brings in the gospel spiritual influences of the city, mixing them with musical legends of the city rounding out a new classic New Orleans album. 

Continuing in the long line of piano men from New Orleans John Papa Gros has stated that: “Sharing New Orleans with the world is my calling. That’s what I have been doing, and that’s what I’ll do with the rest of my life.” Central City is a great snapshot of the town and musical style he loves so dearly.
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

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