Dell Stewart - Let My Lover Go
I sat in front of the TV last night, watching the news, and crying. First and foremost, I couldn’t bear to see little children and old people, baking in the New Orleans heat without water, food or shelter. I imagine my child, or the rest of my family in a similar situation and it breaks my heart. The second thing that came to mind, was the great cultural and artistic loss the destruction of New Orleans is. To employ a mythical comparison, it’s as if the glittering culture of modern Atlantis was washed away in a deluge. The city of New Orleans is so much more than just a spot on a map. It has a character in a way that almost no other city in the US does, from the decorative ironwork and slate roofs in the French Quarter, to the old houses in the 9th ward, to the sounds of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Tuts Washington, Professor Longhair, Kid Ory, Buddy Bolden, Chris Kenner, Diamond Joe, Eddie Bo and countless others echoing in the ether. Looking at the aerial shots of the city, submerged in foul water, one can’t help but wonder if anything will remain. Only when the loss of human life is tallied and understood, will we be able to step back and begin to consider the material losses. How many historic neighborhoods will have to be bulldozed? What traces of the old music will be salvageable (i.e. master tapes, old stashes of local vinyl, historical documents)? Thanks to the blessed lunacy that allowed my parents to believe they could drag their 5 kids across country pulling a trailer, I was lucky enough to visit New Orleans back in 1977 (I was 15). Not yet old (or sophisticated) enough to grasp the real depth of the city’s musical history, I was however struck by the magic of the French Quarter. As soon we drove down Bourbon Street it was immediately obvious that we were seeing something unlike anything else in the America of 1977. It was like stepping out of a time machine. Aside from having to sidestep hordes of drunken Elks (there was a convention in town) it was a real pleasure to walk the streets and soak up the atmosphere. As long as my wife and I have known each other we’ve always talked about taking a trip to New Orleans, and now sadly, it is not to be. That said, all we can do (besides donating as much as we possibly can to the relief efforts, and hoping the Federal government gets off its ass sometime soon) is keep the people of New Orleans in our thoughts, and the music of New Orleans pumping back into the ether, from our stereos, radios, tape decks, ipods, whatever. Keeping that in mind, I offer you a small but tasty slice of NOLA music that I was lucky enough to track down about a month ago. I had posted a tune by Professor Longhair and the Clippers, and in the ensuing discussion with Dan Phillips from Home of The Groove, the comp ‘New Orleans Soul 60’s’ came up. I grabbed a copy, and of course started to try and track down some of the 45s (I already had 2 by Professor Longhair). The one 45 I was able to find was ‘Mr Credit Man’ b/w ‘Let My Lover Go’ by Dell Stewart. I’ll be honest and admit that what little I know of Stewart comes from the liner notes of the comp. Stewart was a friend of the songs composer Earl King, and he sounded so much like Earl that King’s wife thought it was him singing when she heard the record. ‘Mr Credit Man’ is a pretty nice slice of early NOLA soul, that owes a stylistic debt to the Marvelettes ‘Please Mr. Postman’. I found the b-side ‘Let My Lover Go’ to be the more interesting number. Where the a-side has it’s ear turned to Detroit, ‘Let My Lover Go’ has a real NOLA feel, with some cool piano and a great vocal by Stewart. Nothing earth-shattering, just a good solid piece of New Orleans R&B/soul to help us remember what made that city so great. Remember, the post below has a link to donate to the Red Cross. Also, stop over to the Soulstrut board, where a string of charity record auctions are going on.