Roots Royalty

If the Blues and BBQ Fest on Friday (10.17,) does not slake your thirst for NOLA music, swing by the Blue Nile to catch an album release party of Luke Winslow King’s latest compilation Everlasting Arms. The show is slated for 10p.m. after the festival in Lafayette Square finishes up. Little Freddie King will play with Luke to showcase a project they’ve been working on together, and trumpeter Johnny Sansonne is set to play the next set. Everlasting Arms stacked shelves on September 30th and celebrates an array of jazz, blues and rock sounds. King spoke to NoDef about the work.


“I think we’ve gotten to a more harder driving sound, with percussion more integrated into the sound than ever before,” said King as he spoke to NoDef in the dim light of one of the front windows at D.B.A. “But, there’s still a lot of elements of traditional jazz and blues, kind of finding our way into the music, while we’re also reaching out and playing a little bit more rock and roll and just trying to find a hotter more energetic sound.”  


King’s favorite song on the album is “Graveyard Blues.” 


“I had this vision of this old man playing piano in the bar his whole life, like some of these musicians you might see that have kind of lost their spice in life they play music as this blue-collar living and they’re not really that excited about it,” expressed the dapper musician dressed in stripes on stripes resembling old-time blues guitarist Mance Lipscomb.


The track's peak doesn’t come until about 3 minutes and 40 seconds in, shortly before the song’s end.  


“Even just mathematically, I feel like that model is satisfying, that kind of story headed somewhere, then it gets there, and then it lets you down easy.” 


Letting his audience down easy is what Everlasting Arms is all about.  Its got a little bit of everything, from upbeat folkish melodies to lazy ballads, like “Graveyard Blues,” where Luke lyricizes his vision of the old man playing piano before striking the climax:


“They play those same old songs about how somebody did you wrong.  They play the same worn out numbers and the same worn out keys with the Graveyard Blues round your knees.”


One can describe the album as having an Acadian backdrop reminiscent of Fais-Do-Do. With tracks like “Levee Man” it’s no secret where King finds much of his inspiration.  


King has lived in New Orleans his whole adult life and considers it his home, but he also wanted to pay tribute to his actual hometown – Cadillac, Michigan.  “Cadillac Slim” is a tribute to the place he grew up.  “I wanted to be proud of my hometown and represent it in its own light.  There’s no song about Cadillac.”  


He started out playing Rock ‘N Roll in cover bands when he was 14.  Then, he got into blues, and from there began his music education, leading into jazz and classical studies culminating at UNO.  


“All the elements are there in our albums,” says King.  


The album title Everlasting Arms is taken from an old gospel song my James Showalter.  The song is somewhat of a rewrite with different chords and lyrics.  King took an old idea and revamped it. “Musically I think the song is representative of the entire album. It has elements of all the songs and a transcendental meaning that could appeal to different people.”  


The album is produced by Bloodshot Records out of Chicago. The band, including King’s wife Esther Rose, along with Cassidy Holden, Benji Bohannon and Ben Polcer, recorded in several different places across the globe. The group recorded on Piety Street before that studio closed, and in King’s attic in Arabi, which they christened Sauna Studios, after recording in the scorching heat. Vocals were recorded at the Parlor Room on Tchoupitoulas and overnotes in Piza, Italy. They’ve worked with Glen Brown Productions, engineer Eric Heigel at the Parlor Room, and Earl Scioneaux III, who King studied with at UNO and Everlasting Arms marks their fourth album together. Scioneaux is also known for his Brass Punk as DJ Mad Wicked.  


The group has been going to Europe about twice a year. This summer the band went to Italy, where they have their biggest following. They also visited Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Holland. They’re going back this winter and play in Spain, France, and Germany.  


“It is tiring,” King admits. “We play about 200 shows a year. But, the road has been treating us well and it seems like we’re investing in our future and just trying to make the world a little bit smaller by traveling.”


When playing before an audience, King recounts what goes through his mind: 


“I try to make individual connections throughout the audience, try to focus on having my voice hitting the back wall, just completely filling the space and looking to people for what kind of experience they’re looking to have, what kind of moment they’re in. It’s about trying to really give something to your audience and not having it be about you. It’s about really giving something to your audience.”


To make an individual connection with local artist Luke Winslow King, don’t miss his album release at the Blue Nile, this Friday October 17. Admission is $10. The show starts at 11p.m. Doors are at 10p.m.  


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