Lightnin' Bugs – Live at the Sundown! (2000)

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NICK DERISO: The Lightnin’ Bugs’ first live album begins, fittingly, with this boozy tribute to “Mama Rosanne,” a primer on the pleasing, blues-based gumbo that’s quickly become associated with this north Louisiana-based group.

Start with healthy dashes of wheezing accordions, plucky fiddles and second-line drum-groove. Then, about midway through, sprinkle in one happy fan’s long, long whistle of approval.

You’ll be joining in on this, a record that ambles up and makes itself at home.

From the familiar lope of tunes like “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (given an elastic, reggae treatment here) to “Congo Square” (with the appropriate chugging rhythm) and back to “You Send Me” (a dead-on zydeco get down), the Lightnin’ Bugs never fail to be both fresh and coolly aware of this area’s rich musical heritage.

A high-water mark is “That’s What I Like About the South,” featuring a list of lip-smacking down-home foods — including, but not limited to: baked ribs, candied yams, sugar-cured Virginia hams, those berry jams, ham hocks and turnip greens, hogs jowls and butter beans.

It’s just a fun song: “Let’s go down to Alabamy, let’s go see my dear old mammy, fried eggs and cooked hammy, that’s what I like about the South.” Yes, indeed.

That tune also proves to be a fine jumping-off point for the oh-so-pleasurable screechings of fiddler Tim Brogan and the low-down musings of bone player Doonie Gillyard, a true genius at the sly aside. The talented Michael Rasbury, a professor at Louisiana Tech, works the accordian, and the sound board.

There’s some cool jazz on “Poem Without A Rhyme,” which comes off as not much more than a passable ballad — until you reach the tongue-in-cheek chorus, one sure to win over even the most jaded ex-girlfriend: “It’s like a quarter without no dime, it like some cheese without no wine, it’s like tequila without no lime …”

In the end, this is another gem of a tune, powered by the ever-present beating heart of Randy Guynes, a New Orleans disciple and one of the state’s grooviest drummers.

“S’Rite” is a nice distillation of the Lightnin’ Bugs sound, one that’s both tightly wound and yet loose-limbed. Humorous, too: Check out Doonie’s solo. He slips in a very low-key reference to “Ode to Billy Joe,” that 1970s song about the guy who jumped off the Tallahatchie bridge. No kidding.

“Besides making us filthy, stinking rich,” the liner notes say, “we have another reason to release this CD: To thank our friends, families and fans.”

Left unsaid, there: To get your fingers snapping, your feet shuffling and your tongue wagging.

Purchase: Lightnin’ Bugs – Live At The Sundown!

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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