SOUND OF NEW ORLEANS
Blues and Brass CDs
PO Box 770616
New Orleans, LA 70117
(504) 352 1303
$15.00 + $3.00 S&H
By JOHN SWENSON
"Take a trip down Bourbon Street," urges Charlie Cuccia in this album's
opening track tribute to his hometown, the Gary U.S. Bonds’ stomper "New Orleans."
Cuccia lays this one out as a stone rockabilly raveup with tremendous support
from an all-star Big Easy backup group-Joe Krown ticklin' the ivories, Cranston Clements pounding it out on bass, Barry Flippen slamming away on the drum kit
and Jerry Jumonville delivering screaming and honking saxophone solos.
The slippery second line rhythms of Cuccia's unique rendition of "Mack the Knife" showcase his creativity at working with found material. Where others are satisfied to do cover versions Cuccia remakes the material to reflect his own eccentric character.
Make no mistake, this album is all about Cuccia's eccentricities, even if he didn't write any of the songs. Anyone who's seen him working Bourbon Street, either in his current gig fronting the Big Easy Band or in his previous incarnation at the Krazy Korner with the Smoke City band, knows that Cuccia's performances all bear a unique stamp. Others know him from his Metairie identity as "Snake," leader of Snake and the Vipers. Either way Cuccia's fans know they can expect white hot guitar licks, raw, emotional vocals and a manic charisma that only the true rock 'n' rollers possess.
"I started out playing clarinet," says Cuccia, an admission that goes a long way toward explaining the harmonic intricacy of his guitar playing inside of what appears on the surface to be an over-the-top style. "My mother loved Pete Fountain. When I was about 10 I started playing the guitar. I started out listening to Chuck Berry but I built up my own style from there. I have a big gumbo of influences in my mind, it's hard to sort them out. I listened to Alvin Lee, Leslie West, I loved the Stones and Keith Richard, I really love the heart in Bruce Springsteen's playing. Being from New Orleans I have a lot of jazz influences in there as well. I love Leo Nocentelli of the Meters. I'm really into rockabilly too - Carl Perkins, Eddie Cochrane."
All of those influences are in evidence on this album. Springsteen's "Spirit in the Night" never sounded better than when Cuccia brings his intensity to it. He falls somewhere between paradise and Guns 'N Roses on Bob Dylan's "Knocking On Heaven's Door," a mainstay of his Bourbon Street performances. But he's most himself on Chuck Berry's "Nadine," the perfect vehicle for Cuccia's crazy combo of roots rock and punk passion.
Whether Snake is ripping Chuck Berry licks, energizing a Springsteen classic or delivering soulful renditions of songs from Marvin Gaye to Creed and contemporary groups like Tonic and Fuel, Cuccia does it all.
As an original member of T. Q. and the Topcats Cuccia became legendary in the mid 70s, packing 300 seat clubs not only in New Orleans but also Memphis, Nashville, Jackson, Houston, Dallas, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Fans flocked to see the hottest showman on the circuit as he treated them to blood curdling displays of reckless abandon, leaping from six-foot stages and sliding on his knees across the dance floor, all the while soloing furiously. They thrilled to his displays of table hopping and walking the bar, stalking around the club in a semi crouch, sweat dripping from his pomade-stacked rooster-comb haircut, a cigarette bobbing absurdly off of his lower lip. As he played he made bug-eyed faces, fixing individual members of the crowd with his watery blue google-eyed stare.
Cuccia later co-founded the Bedrocks in 1987 with his guitar sidekick from high school, Ronnie Hunter, and played with that notorious party band both in Metairie and the North Shore, where he drove audiences wild with his Chuck Berry splits and machine gun like guitar slinging style until 1996. Along the way the Bedrocks collected both Gambit and OffBeat awards for Best Local Cover Band/Unsigned Band.
Between bands Charlie has always worked as a solo artist, preferring the stories and songs of people who inspired him (Springsteen, Dylan, Beatles, Berry, Stones, Creedence) to his own material.
"I've been doing this 33 years," he proudly points out. "Nobody's gonna tell me what songs to play." Cuccia was inducted into the Louisiana Legends Music Hall of Fame at its grand opening ceremony.
He calls his music "New Orleans rock and soul," but when Charlie Cuccia slings on that hollow body Ibanez Gibson 335 replica, he is preparing to play some hard edged rock 'n' roll.
Now Cuccia's fans have an album that bottles all of that energy for home consumption.
John Swenson worked as an editor at Crawdaddy, Rolling Stone, Saturday Review, Rock World and OffBeat, contributes regularly to Gambit and has written numerous books on music including The Rolling Stone Record Guide and the Rolling Stone Jazz and Blues Album Guide. He also covers horseracing for the Daily Racing Form.
Joe Krown - Organ & Piano
Cranston Clements - Bass
Barry Flippen - drums
Jerry Jumonville - Saxophone
Harmonica – George “Harmonica Red” Heard
The White Sisters - Fadra White & Zondra Jones
Jerry Dubeau, Gary Edwards, Ronnie Hunter
Family & Friends Ensemble of New Orleans
01. New Orleans
02. Mack the Knife
03. Sick and Tired
04. Rainy Night In Georgia
05. Get Out of my life Woman
07. Knocking On Heaven’s Door
08. The Snake
09. Spirit in the Night
10. Ring Dang Doo
Photography by JR Thomason, New Orleans
Artwork Jeremy Machalek/WhyArts Images
Recorded and mixed at Sound Of New Orleans Studio.
Engineered & Mixed by David Silverman except Nadine - mixed by Marlise Barta
Mastered by Mike Hogan, New Orleans
Supervised by Gary J. Edwards
© 2011 SoundOfNewOrleans.com