Sounds Like: What if The Meters made an unplugged album?
As much as I love this album, I may love the story behind it even more. Recorded in 1971, it went unreleased, only to be thought permanently lost to the ravages of hurricane Katrina. Then, thirteen years later and close to fifty years after it was recorded, a bunch of masters turned up at a swap meet in Torrance, CA. That sparked a chain of events that eventually brought the recordings back to Nocentelli, who had only the slightest recollection of the music’s existence. As an artist, I can only imagine the exhilaration of rediscovering art long thought lost.
Now I’m a big fan of funk, and I love acoustic music, but boy am I wary when people try to combine the two. Leave it to the New Orleans legend to do it so flawlessly. Nocentelli may have been going for an album in the vein of James Taylor, but he cannot hide his need to groove. “Riverfront” is a great example of this. Starting with a little sly, jazzy finger picking, the band comes in with a bass line that acts both as anchor and a punctuation mark, while that warm electric piano sound floats through the track, holding it all together. This song would sit perfectly in a classic Meters set. A lot of the album feels like that, with that percussive backbone that makes these songs feel much more dimensional that other folk music from that era. Even it was just the guitar, the songs would work, as the lyrics are personal, honest and revealing, but the full band gives them not just life, but a little mischief.
The record closes with a cover of Elton John’s “Your Song,” which is really the only thing that ties it to a specific point in time, but it sounds fresh, with that bass line kicking things off and then trading off with Nocentelli’s guitar lines. It’s perfectly sums up this album: Familiar but different, relaxed yet playful. It’s music that waited decades to have its moment, and like a fine wine, time just made it stronger.