Monday, July 7, 2014

Arsene DeLay -- Comin' Home

Arséne DeLay is scary talented. The clarity, warmth, and soulfulness of her voice will stop you dead in your tracks. You'll wonder why you haven't been an avid fan this whole time. But you can be forgiven -- Comin' Home is her first album.

DeLay showcases her formidable talent on her debut album: she glides from rock to pop to jazz and then a little gospel like it's not a big deal to excel in all of these genres. But she's not just an incredible singer. Most of the songs on this album are covers from fellow New Orleans singer-songwriters, but the arrangements are hers. When I pointed out that her covers of songs I know well are incredible, all she said was she picked musicians who seemed right for the job. So not only is she a talented songwriter in her own right, she's a damn fine producer as well. And as a contributor to the Proud compilation CD, I can speak from experience of her friendliness and consummate professionalism during what was at times a confusing process.

If for some reason the music itself isn't enough to make you excited about Comin' Home, here's another reason you should care. New Orleans is poppin'. I mean, we all knew that. But for this little corner of the music world, it's quickly becoming the cradle of Americana music. American Songwriter recently devoted an entire issue to the New Orleans Americana scene. Songwriters like Caleb Caudle, who was recently featured here, are gravitating towards the Crescent City in droves. Artists like Alynda Lee Segarra (Hurray For the Riff Raff) are bringing national attention to the city's incubation of roots and rock music. (Both Segarra and de Lay performed on the recording for Paul Sanchez's Nine Lives musical. Sanchez was instrumental in putting Comin' Home together and served as the album's "Studio Producer." If you ask me, he's the guy to blame for New Orleans' ascendancy.)

American Songwriter focused on (white) folk singers picking up the jazzy heritage of the city, but this cross-pollination flows both ways. Two of the songs on the album are covers of Sonia Tetlow's songs. Tetlow is often compared favorably to Patti Smith, but DeLay's addition of a horn section to "Anti" was an inspired move that transformed a defiant punk rock song into something else entirely. I almost didn't recognize her interpretation of Mary Lasseigne's "Apollo." DeLay is absorbing the myriad sounds of New Orleans and creating something quite her own. But unlike the rockers celebrated in the music press, DeLay's actually from New Orleans and is contributing to her city's tradition. DeLay and musicians like her are doing nothing less than shaping the Americana of the future. What she's doing is important. That's why you should care.

Here's the original version of Anti:

Here's Arséne's:

Comin' Home (an original song)

St. Judas

ArséneDeLay -- Official, Purchase from CDBaby, Threadhead Records

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