One Track Mind: Aaron Neville, "Louisiana 1927" (1991)

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Randy Newman, a good ol’ boy from New Orleans, La., has been thought of as a national treasure by many, and for good reason. From “My Old Kentucky Home” to “I Love L.A.,” Newman’s deft mixture of Broadway show-tunes and modern pop makes him the closest thing to a modern-day Cole Porter of the late twentieth century. The carefully constructed melodies and the lush arrangements that sometimes accompany sometimes belie some mordant lyrics that don’t sugar coat at all when Randy is feeling, well, randy.

Followers of Top 40 back in 1977 remember how stinging Newman’s lyrics can be when his fluke hit “Short People” caused such an uproar as people missed the point of the song being a sarcastic denunciation of bigotry.

About three years earlier, Newman was at perhaps his most savage best with the Southern-themed Good Old Boys. In the middle of that classic collection is a song about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, which devastated much of the middle-to-lower Mississippi River region, with levee breaks overwhelming towns and destroying crops.

Newman’s account of that event and how it affected the Bayou State sounds straightforward, but given his penchant for aiming at contemporary targets, you have to wonder if he was really just giving us a history lesson or was there a larger message contained. The refrain provides a hint of the latter, whereby the state was and will always be treated as a stepchild of the Federal Government:

Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away

Regardless, it’s a beautiful tune even if it’s a rewrite of “Sail Away,” and the lyrics pair with a downcast, rich melody make this a great tune that provides ample demonstration to most of Newman’s strengths. Imagine how much better this song is then someone who can really sing is covering it.

Enter Aaron Neville.

In 1991, bolstered by the strength of the Neville Brothers’ Yellow Moon and also the success of his duets with Linda Ronstadt, Neville put out a solo record Warm Your Heart. It’s a good but not great album; however it kicks off marvelously with “Louisiana, 1927.” Being from New Orleans itself and having some savvy in picking tunes to cover, this choice makes a lot of sense.

The string-heavy arrangements of the original are here, and a swelling chorus is added for further weight. As for Neville’s lead vocal, it needs no comment except to state that it’s his usual outstanding fare; they don’t call him “The Voice” for nothing.

I listened to this and all the other songs from Warm Your Heart back when it was new, then put it away for about fifteen years until Hurricane Katrina struck the middle Gulf Coast. The tragedy called to mind this song about levees breaking and how it seemed like someone or something was trying again to wash away Louisiana. The relevant poignancy of this tragic event turned the song into something even more for me and couldn’t get it out of my mind for many days after.

Eventually, I did move on to other songs and other worries. But every August 29 (like last Wednesday), thoughts turn again to this song. And Aaron Neville’s golden throat delivering the goods.

Listen: Aaron Neville – “Louisiana 1927”

Purchase: Aaron Neville – Warm Your Heart

“One Track Mind” is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron
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