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Papa Was A Rolling Stone / We Will Walk Through The Streets Of The City
~ Hot 8 Brass Band
- Label: Tru Thoughts
- Cat Number: TRUDD153
“[Hot 8] has helped galvanise its community since 2005; captures both the edginess and transcendent beauty of life in its city” – The Wall Street Journal
“Hot 8 music is feel good music… music with a message. It’s life music.” – Hot 8 band leader, Bennie Pete
New Orleans’ Hot 8 Brass Band toast their 20th Anniversary in typical roof-raising style, announcing a series of releases and live dates to celebrate this significant and incredibly hard-won milestone. Kicking off proceedings on 9th October, with the first new recorded music from the band since 2013, is the “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”/“We Shall Walk Through The Streets Of The City” single, two weeks ahead of the ‘Vicennial – 20 Years Of The Hot 8 Brass Band’ album.
Across three albums - 2007’s ‘Rock With The Hot 8’, 2012’s Grammy-nominated ‘The Life & Times Of…’ and 2013’s ‘Tombstone’ – with a host of standout singles, including their iconic version of “Sexual Healing” alongside several other covers and equally impressive originals, Hot 8 Brass Band have told the story of their lives and their city like only they can.
One of the great New Orleans acts, Hot 8 have pushed on through a barely imaginable series of trials. The devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the separate deaths of four of their band members, and the horror of trumpeter Terrell “Burger” Batiste losing his legs in a car crash, conspired to test these men almost to breaking point. They honour their fallen friends and help to work towards the future of their community by putting their energies into positive projects at home as well as touring as much as they can. They march together and they play their music - a rambunctious yet elegant and super-tight mix of jazz, funk and hip hop – not merely as though, but because their lives depend on it.
Transcending genres and trends, Hot 8’s party rocking sound and indomitable energy have become renowned across the world, with an ever-growing fanbase and media features across the spectrum from The Guardian to Esquire, BBC Radio 2 to 1Xtra and beyond. The band and their incredible story were featured in Spike Lee’s two New Orleans documentaries When The Levee Broke and The Creek Don’t Rise, as well as playing themselves in David Simon’s hit HBO series Treme.
This single exemplifies Hot 8 Brass Band’s ability to honour their city’s musical traditions while forging their own powerful legacy. “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” is a favourite that they played from early on in Second Line and street parades “Our whole thing then was to create our own distinctive sound, and this song helped us to that”, says band leader and sousaphone player Bennie Pete. It was, he says, “a tune most of us younger guys grew up hearing our parents listen to but we always loved the horn parts and the liveliness”. Reunited for this celebratory recording with older member Keith “Wolf” Anderson, who first suggested playing the song way back in the day, the band felt compelled to lay down the track.
Hot 8 are one of a very few brass bands who pour as much charisma, training and talent into their vocals as their horn playing, resulting in an almighty connective power, and on “Papa…” the bluesy, almost Hendrix-esque guest vocal performance from Frank Williams, over spirited backing from the band,shows even more exploration of that side of their sound. The tune is also set apart and carried along by celebratory, carnival-style percussion with a tropical flavour.
The AA-side here is a beautifully buoyant version of the gospel tune “We Shall Walk Through The Streets Of The City”, recorded in tribute to the late trombone player Joseph Williams. Marvellously, Joseph’s grandmother, Mrs. Betty Ann WIlliams, features on lead vocals, her son (Joseph’s uncle) Herlin Riley on drums and Joseph’s brother Arian Macklin on tuba. “When we talked to Betty she said, ‘I’m not singing “I’ll Fly Away” ‘cause everybody do that.’ She suggested this one, so we rolled with it”, recalls Pete. “Every second in that studio was magical and very emotional for everyone, especially the older members who had had a chance to play with Joe and had a relationship with Mrs. Betty. It was a blessing and a must-do for us; we all had a chance to revisit and for that moment capture the spirit of Joseph Williams through recording with his family, and they did too… I'm sure it is a moment no-one will ever let go.” For these recordings, they welcomed back another bandmate, trumpeter Shamarr Allen, who grew up with Joseph and the late Dinerral Shavers (the drummer whose story featured in Treme), playing in a band together as kids even before their Hot 8 stories began.