New Orleans has soul. If anything is certain about the Crescent City, it’s that. From the blues singers dressed in three piece suits on the regular to a soothing pot of gumbo, the soul of New Orleans seeps out of every pore like an unstoppable volcano. Whether it’s an ordinary or Fat Tuesday, the soul of the city can be witnessed anywhere and everywhere in New Orleans.
Our hosts Mikko, Lorin Gaudin and George Ingmire talk about the many layers of soul in New Orleans, be it a spirit, a style, a food or a musical genre, but mostly a distinct omnipresence that encompasses each. The soul power of New Orleans is its ability to create ease, love and comfort in all it does. Our hosts talk about where you can find this incomparable soul of New Orleans in its food, music and culture. Listen to this New Orleans Soul episode of GoNOLA Radio to find out!
GoNOLA Radio is a free New Orleans podcast hosted by Sunpie Barnes, Lorin Gaudin, George Ingmire and Mikko about the food, music and culture of the Crescent City. Subscribe to GoNOLA Radio on iTunes or download to your mobile device on Stitcher. GoNOLA Radio features music by Cale Pellick.
Sanpar: Welcome to GoNOLA Radio. My name is Sanpar Barnes; I will be
your host of hosts as we explore New Orleans, to learn about the
city’s rich cultural heritage, food, and music. We bring you
experts, the real deal experts, who will talk with you about
with you the people who make New Orleans such a wonderful place
to live and visit. It is GoNOLA Radio.
Miko: That was my James Brown yell.
Lauren: Wow. You freaked me out. I was not sure what that was.
Miko: Hello everybody. My name is Miko, and I have two great comrades here.
The conversation here is always so exciting and interesting. On
my right here is Lauren Goden, food goddess. Is goddess correct
with you, or just archangel?
Lauren: Yes, goddess is. I did not name myself that, but that is what I
am called here in town.
Miko: The food goddess. Across from us is the ever handsome, ever
fascinating, George Ingmier.
George: God, I got a great face for radio.
Lauren: Don’t we all?
Miko: I do not even have a radio. Anyway, welcome everyone. You are so kind
to be listening in here on GoNOLA. Today, we are going to be
talking about soul. My baby got soul. We were just talking
before we went on today, Lauren, about how soul has come to mean
so many things.
Miko: In New Orleans, the soul is multilayered, multidimensional. What I
mean by that is the different culture, but it is also the
different twists on the cultures. Somebody comes here from San
Francisco and they are going to twist what their influences
there to a New Orleans beat.
Lauren: I think so. I think too, when we talk about the soul of New
Orleans, it means so many different things to so many different
people, and it is not old school when you thought of soul as in
Soul Train soul. I am of that particular, I think actually all
three of us are from that era. I do not think that way anymore,
at all because New Orleans and soul, when you talk about food
from the food perspective, you think of Creole soul. What does
that mean, Creole soul? It can mean neighborhood foods and
places like Dooky Chase or Willie Mae’s Scotch House. You are
talking about foods like the long slow-cooked veal chop, stewed,
smothered veal chop, or you are talking about fried chicken,
fried fish or shrimp, and butter beans. You are talking about
comfort foods; inexpensive foods that meant something and made
the heart beat of those areas of town in which they live. Which
was Treme for Dooky Chase, and Treme for Willie Mae’s Scotch
House, which had become crazy famous for their fried chicken.
Then that just goes into a whole other thing, because you have
dry fried chicken, and wet batter fried chicken, and all those
things, but that makes up part of the Creole soul. The thing
that is so fascinating to me is that you walk into those
restaurants and you might have a big pan of green beans. Now
back in the day, we might all have been snapping green beans and
cooking them from scratch with some bacon fat and the whole nine
yards. More popularly, in those types of restaurants you might
find canned green beans, and there is absolutely nothing wrong
with canned green beans because that is, in fact, a part of the
Creole soul culture of food because that is what people could
afford to eat. We did not have, there was not an abundance of
fresh green beans. For me, as a Jew, soul food, for me, can be
anything from a big bowl of cold, beet, borscht, to locks, eggs
and onions, a nice chewy bagel. I know that sounds almost like I
am stereotyping, but in fact that is soul food for me, those
things take me back. It is like that Anton Ego moment from
Ratatouille where you eat something and you get sucked back in
time to your childhood. That is the level of soul that we talk
about, I think now, when we talk about food.
Miko: Cranberry suits with the platform shoes and the white hat. Seriously,
what do you do with your wardrobe now?
George: I am going to keep wearing those zoot suits. There is a great
place called Soul Train Fashions, there is a chain of them here
in the New Orleans area.
George: One out there on Gentilly and one out on Marrero. In fact, I
went to a Soul Train Fashions with a very soulful cat named
Walter Wolfman, in Washington.
Miko: Oh, my goodness.
George: We recorded all of it for a program called New Orleans All The
Way Live. It is literally an hour of weaved of his music, as
well as us on a road trip to the clothing store to pick out an
outfit, talking about soul music, and his time with Lee Dorsey
and Johnny Adams, who got him out of his jeans and t-shirt into
better clothing, because he said, ‘If you play good, you need to
start looking good.’
Lauren: Yes, that is true.
George: There is an attitude about soul has a certain attitude, let us
just say dignity and beauty that sometimes people overlook. You
see performances, and you might not be thinking about the fact
that that man’s wearing a $500 pair of shoes. Why is he wearing
$500 pair of shoes? They make him play better. I sound better
when I am wearing better clothes on the radio. I know that for a
Lauren: When you are not wearing your PJs.
George: Exactly. If I am in shorts and a t-shirt, I am not going to
sound as good. Soulfulness is expressiveness. That is the whole
thing about New Orleans.
Lauren: What a great thing to say. Yes, indeed, soulfulness is
expression. That is right.
George: Think about Gospel music, funk, music called soul, blues, and
brass band music. This is a city that expresses itself in a
soulful manner. That is like, food has that flair, too, it is
very expressive. Seasonings, in many ways are like a bright
shirt. All the things that we do here in New Orleans is a matter
of expression and sharing our real feelings.
Miko: That is a great point. One thing, just socially speaking, I think
that this renaissance of New Orleans, this post-Katrina New
Orleans, and the country being interested in it. There actually
catching up to what we would call the soul society, the folks of
that certain demographic. New Orleans has always been a place to
be desired for musicians to come to, for scene makers to come
to, from the black community. From the 19th century, New Orleans
was a big stop on the map. Not so much in the white community,
in the 40s and 50s, there were a few aberrations, but this was
always a place to get to wear your best clothes, show off your
best dishes, play your best music, and that kind of thing. Where
now, it is coming into its own.
It is interesting that Soul Train is still on the map, and that
Walter is going to go shopping there. It is almost like if you
want to go to London and go up to, the neighborhood escapes me,
and buy the hip clothes from the 60s.
Lauren: The Haight Street?
Miko: Yes, exactly. There is that classic element that New Orleans
embodies, that harkens back to a time when this was very, in a
way, socially exclusive place to get to. If your music tour took
you from Memphis and through all those towns along the
Mississippi Delta, and ended up in New Orleans, this was the big
gig, just musically speaking, but in a lot of ways.
Lauren, I am going to ask you straight-up. I am coming to New
Orleans, I am from Boston, and I have been eating boiled meat
and potatoes for the last 20 years, and I want to try some soul
food. Where am I going?
Lauren: When you say soul food, are you talking about New Orleans soul
Miko: Whatever you want to talk about, girl.
Lauren: All right. I would send you to Two Sisters. I love Two Sisters,
that is a family-style restaurant.
Miko: You got to be clear. Not the Court of Two Sisters.
Lauren: No, not the Court of Two Sisters, just a place, this soul food
place called Two Sisters. In fact, all throughout New Orleans on
the corner stores, in various and sundry neighborhoods, you can
really find very soulful dishes. One of the famous ones, of
course, is ya-ka-mein. Miss Linda Green, who has made it really
world renowned at this point, still sells it off the back of her
pickup truck following the Second Line. For those who do not
know what ya-ka-mein is, it is basically beef soup with spaghetti
and little shards of meat in it, highly spiced and seasoned,
green onions, and of course, there has got to be the boiled egg.
George: A wonderful hangover cure.
Miko: I was just going to say the same thing.
Lauren: Old Sober is what it was called. There was some idea that it
was actually brought to New Orleans following the Korean War, by
the black soldiers who had served, that is one of the legends,
if you will, of New Orleans soul. Two Sisters is a restaurant
that also is very well known for their Creole soul food: Baked
macaroni, the beans, the greens, the rice, the stewed meats, and
they actually serve chitterlings, and you can get fried, and you
can do stewed if you are down with that, and that is great, but
the fried are really excellent. It is just such beautiful
comfort food. Again, it is one of those moments when you get
sucked back in time and it just reminds you of sitting in the
kitchen of maybe an aunt. Gumbo, anytime you can get a fine bowl
of gumbo, you are really eating the soul of New Orleans. Any of
those dishes, Jambalaya, Etouffee, and so on. Do you not think
George: Yes. I have a question for you, though. When you say part of
soulfulness and any category, from the food that you grew up
eating to the food in New Orleans, has a lot to do with
Lauren: The whole idea of high-on-the-hog versus not high-on-the-hog
was being resourceful. Taking whatever was available to you,
wherever you were cooking, and using it. Whether it meant eating
pig’s feet, the ears, or the tails, and turning it into a food
item that is delicious, has nostalgia, and is still something
eaten very popularly here in New Orleans today.
I would send people to Buttermilk Drop Café in the 7th Ward,
which I think that it is phenomenal. Dwight Henry making those
buttermilk drops, doing incredible breakfasts, even doing rocky
rice which is nothing more than Chinese-style fried rice tossed
with all kinds of breakfast goodness up in there; eggs, sausage,
and so on. We have Little Dizzy’s, and Wayne Batke, whose family
has been doing Creole soul food in New Orleans for forever and a
day, from the time of Eddie’s on Law Street, and probably well
before that, too. It is amazing, but you got to be ready and
willing to go into the neighborhoods.
Then there is citified soul food that you can do. You can go to
the Bonton, which is right off Poydras Street, and
have amazing food of a different type of soul. You could walk
into Mother’s and have biscuits, debris, eggs, and that means
something to people, and touches the soul. I think it is amazing
that almost anywhere you go you can taste the soul of New
Orleans, and I think that is what makes it so beautiful.
Miko: George, you brought up the resourcefulness thing. During the Civil
War, coffee was at a premium here, so people starting grinding
up the endive root of the plant, chicory, it goes in the coffee.
My dad grew up in Philadelphia, and it was actually an
embarrassment among the Italians that they were using chicory in
the coffee because it meant that you could not afford coffee.
Here in New Orleans, it has become a badge of honor. It is a
very interesting situation in which resourcefulness, which
stretches the coffee out, becomes sheik. People in Philadelphia,
they are probably pining for the New Orleans chicory coffee now.
Lauren: I still love it.
Miko: On that segway, George, I am always asking you question that take a 2-
hour show to answer, so I a going to ask you another one. What
do know about soul music in New Orleans? Is there any?
George: One person that I think needs to be mentioned immediately, who
gets overlooked just because he has been playing gigs, but he
has been playing gigs for years in the black neighborhoods and
clubs. There are so many layers to New Orleans: Music, food,
culture, so you can be totally hip to one thing and a block
down, there is stuff that has been going on for 20 years, and
you do not know anything about. You are just walking by the
place and not seeing it. Brother Tyrone, and he has also go a
band called the Mindbenders, Brother Tyrone and the Mindbenders,
one of the most soulful voices in New Orleans today. He is worth
looking up. People listening right now, just Google his name,
Brother Tyrone, and you will find a number of albums by him. He
just put out one recently that he does a lot of acoustic pieces
on there. Very soulful cat, beautiful singer. People can walk
up, that have never recorded professionally, they are not even
in a band, and they can walk up and sing you a song in New
Orleans. You would be surprised at how beautiful they sing. You
will hear people singing in their alleyway.
Lauren: I am never surprised. I am only surprised when I am surprised.
Miko: His star is finally rising, Glenn Andrews. He worked for years
outside, and his voice is trained by singing outside. He is
finally getting, but he’s finally up there.
George: Monday nights at DBA, Glenn David Andrews. Wednesday nights at
DBA, Walter Wolfman Washington. On Sunday nights you can
actually catch a bit of Walter Wolfman Washington, Joe Crown,
and Russell Batist over there at the Maple Leaf. There is the
Bayou Beergarden, you can catch Walter Wolfman Washington on
Thursday nights. I keep coming back to Walter Wolfman
Washington, as well because I think he is one of the last from
that guard. He cut his teeth under people like Lee Dorsey and
Johnny Adams, he went on the road with Irma Thomas.
I remember, he told me a story when we were riding out to Soul
Train Fashions were he got sick of doing construction work and
was wondering what next. Lee Dorsey said, ‘You are a good
player. Let me bring you on the road.’ And he said, ‘You got to
ask my mom,’ so Lee went to his mom. This was in the 60s.
Walter’s mom asked, ‘What are you going to pay him?’ Lee said,
‘I am going to pay him $800 a week.’ This was in the 60s. His
mom said, ‘Sure thing.’ He went out and toured Europe and did
all this stuff with Lee Dorsey. Lee Dorsey, for those of you
that don’t know, recorded a lot of songs that were written by
Alan Toussaint, Working in a Coal Mine is one of the
biggest ones we all know about. A serious cat there.
Walter Wolfman Washington cut his teeth way back then, but he is
still doing it now. He has got such an expressive sound that you
cannot quite put your finger on it because we do not really have
good categories here. Even talking about soul, you think
soulfulness is a crucial ingredient in anything in New Orleans.
Soul and New Orleans are synonymous.
Go to wwoz.org or go to Offbeat.com and click on their music
listings, and you can get an idea of our riches on a daily
Miko: Guys, thank you so much, and thank you everyone that is listening in.
We really appreciate it. Send us emails, and let us know what
you think. Lauren, bon appetite.
Lauren: Yes, same to you.
Miko: George, keep it real.
George: All right.
Sanpar: GoNOLA radio is a production of New Orleans Tourism and
Marketing Corporation, in conjunction with FSC Interactive.
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