I spent the first four years of my life on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, an hour or so east of New Orleans.
Though I left when I was four and it was been well over three decades since I have called Southern Mississippi home, it will always be, well, home. I was just there for a few days to celebrate the life of my grandmother, who recently died at the age of 94, and with each visit I am reminded that there are so many things about the Gulf Coast – the Mississippi drawl, the food, the music – that continue to resonate with me.
Being in Mississippi is a reminder that I am within earshot of New Orleans, perhaps the most important musical city in America, and home to some of my favorite bands. Kermit Ruffins, The Revivalists, The Meters, and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band are but a few who call New Orleans home.
My favorite New Orleans band, Galactic, is set to release Into The Deep this week. This newest record is yet another outstanding collection of the funky sonic gumbo that the band has become famous for during its two decades of making music together.
Galactic looked both within and without while charting the course for this new release, delving deep into the band’s own history while bringing a steady string of friends and heroes to the studio to record. Featured on the record are collaborations with, among others, Mavis Staples, Macy Gray, Ryan Montbleau, and JJ Grey. The end result, of course, was a record both distinctly Galactic and New Orleans, a collection of songs easily identifiable as belonging to this band while, at the same time, representing the musical mish mash that is the Galactic’s hometown.
I recently caught up with guitarist Jeff Raines to chat about the new record, New Orleans eats, and how to sound like a Big Easy native.
BRO – You collaborate with a number of incredible musicians on this record. How did you go about choosing the folks with whom you would work?
JR – We already had working relationships with many of the artists we collaborated with on this album. Others were people we admired or thought we could do something worthwhile with. Working with Mavis Staples was a dream come true for us.
BRO – I am in New Orleans for the afternoon and I am hungry. Where should I head for some quintessential New Orleans grub?
JR – I would send you to Domilise’s Po-boys for the oyster shrimp po-boy. It is a New Orleans institution and a personal favorite. The muffuletta at Central Grocery is also a classic that is on my list of greatest sandwiches on the planet. It should also be noted that the muffuletta at the Donald Link lunch restaurant Butcher bucks tradition by arriving hot and is a really good modern take on the legendary sandwich.
BRO – Let’s say I decide to stay for the evening. Where should I head for some live music?
JR – Obviously, there are many great places to see live music in New Orleans. If you want to see some of the best local bands in the city, I would send you to the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street. If you’re here on a Tuesday, the Rebirth Brass Band plays there around eleven o’clock and it is always a great time. There are also a lot of clubs on Frenchmen Street, right outside of the French Quarter, that feature great local bands.
BRO – We are featuring “Higher & Higher” on this month’s Trail Mix. How was it working with JJ Grey on this track?
JR – JJ Grey is an old and great friend of Galactic and we always wanted to do a track with him. When we got the music together for that song, it seemed like something we thought he could work with. He has really come into his own as a lyricist over the years, which is not really our strength, so it seemed like a perfect fit to do this song with him.
BRO – If I am heading down to The Big Easy, how should I pronounce the name of your fair city so that I sound like I am in the know? N’awlins? New Or-LEENS?
JR – The only time anyone pronounces New Orleans as “New Or-leens” is when they are rhyming to another word, usually in a song. The proper way to say Orleans would be “Orlens,” like the lens of a camera.
Galactic will be up north in Canada and South Dakota this weekend before heading to Japan later this month. The band returns stateside in early August, with dates in Colorado, Washington, New York, and across the Northeast on tap.
For more information on tour dates, the band, or how you can grab a copy of Into The Deep, check out the band’s website. Also, be sure to check out “Higher & Higher,’ featuring JJ Grey, on this month’s Trail Mix.