New Orleans to Newport

Hurray for the Riff Raff at Newport 2013 - Photo by Richard Kluver/grass clippings blog
Hurray for the Riff Raff at Newport 2013 – Photo by Richard Kluver/grass clippings blog

The 2014 Newport Folk Festival kicks off five months from today and the lineup continues to build. So far, we’ve got the newly rejoined Nickel Creek, legendary soulful folker Mavis Staples, newbies like The Oh Hellos and more, but two ATO Records bands from New Orleans top our lineup excitement list to date.

Hurray for the Riff Raff released its third album in three years earlier this month and this one – Small Town Heroes (Amazon MP3 & Spotify) – is the band’s best work so far and easily my favorite album of this year. Ranging from New Orleans Zydeco-infused Americana to bluesy numbers to gentle folk ballads, the album is solid all the way through and carries a true Louisiana feel that so many attempt and few can really pull off. The timeless vocals of Bronx-born Alynda Lee Segarra are set against her strongest writing. Of note is a song about the late Levon Helm (“Levon’s Dream”) and another about the tragic 2012 bus rape in New Delhi (“The Body Electric”), but my favorite is a song Segarra wrote with Sam Doores of fellow locals The Deslondes about St. Roch, the zero-sea level New Orleans neighborhood hit hard by Katrina (below, featuring members of The Deslondes).

In addition, Benjamin Booker, a new young ATO signee, might not have an album to share yet, but he’s got some DAMN fine momentum and buzz leading up to the festival. The guitarist points to gospel bluesman Blind Willie Johnson, 80s/90s punk blues band The Gun Club and late 60s British folk rock T. Rex as influences. For now, all we’ve got are a few YouTube videos to sink our teeth into, but check out the range between the solo videos below. “Have You Seen My Son” is Mississippi Delta blues. “RTS,” featuring Max Norton – Booker’s only fellow band member – on drums, is something very different.

Check out the full lineup here and watch for more rolling lineup updates right here or on the NFF Facebook page.