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Color: Pretty Feathers Marble | Weight: 180 Gram
Big Chief Bo Dollis Jr. brought together members of New Orleans’ extensive musical “family” for his new release, My Name Is Bo, an impressively ambitious two-part project recorded at the New Orleans Jazz Museum, released on Gallatin Street Records, the imprint of Museum. Bo Jr. leads his Mardi Gras Indian tribe, the Wild Magnolias, for several acoustic numbers that represent how the ensemble sounds on the street and at Indian practices. He then moves to the “stage” to funk things up with a wealth of some of this city’s finest musicians and vocalists, adding some sophistication and even a bit of zydeco to the Black Indian theme. Original material reigns here, primarily from the pens of Bo Jr. and percussionist/vocalist Cyril Neville, who produced the album, along with co-producer/keyboardist Norman Caesar and drummer Kendall “Jazz” Williams.
It’s almost like name dropping to mention all of the artists who jump on board these selections, including the very funky title cut on which the Bo strongly introduces himself as the Chief of the Wild Magnolias. “If you don’t know, you better ask somebody,” he suggests. As heard on a number of tunes, keyboardist Norman and drummer Ricky Caesar, brothers who are related to Neville, are solid in representing the Uptown sound established in part by both the Nevilles and the Wild Magnolias. Dig the background vocalists and guitar of June Yamagishi.
Noted jazz saxophonist Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr. and Ivan Neville on clavinet add yet another flavor to the funk on the dance-ready “Indian Blues.” Cyril’s congas are prominent on “We the Wild Magnolias” with some strong bass lines by Darryl Johnson accented by the trombone of Big Sam Williams.
By this time, you are probably understanding the “family photo” element that’s core to this album and the warmth and camaraderie that must have prevailed among the musicians. A little more name dropping is required to further enhance the picture. Trumpeters Irvin Mayfield and Mario Abney brighten several tunes, and the well-known Big Chief Smiley Ricks arrives on drums on “Nola Thang.” Perhaps the most unusual variation is heard on the zydeco- and Carnival-flavored “Have a Good Time” with accordionist Anthony Dopsie and rubboard man David “Rockin’ Dopsie Jr.”, the sons of the late great Alton “Rockin’ Dospie” Rubin.
“Feel My Fire,” stands out as a stylistic bow to Dr. John and is wonderfully reminiscent of Mac Rebennack’s classic “Guilded Splinters.” Bo Jr. is solid singing the lead with Harrison’s alto weaving behind the vocals. Guitarist Leo Nocentelli is the special guest on this song and the background vocalists—which vary on different cuts—do a great job here and throughout the disc.
In 1973, Bo Jr.’s father, Theodore Big Chief Bo Dollis, started a new era for the Black Indians when he recorded the incredible, funk-driven album The Wild Magnolias. That album included legends in the New Orleans jazz and rhythm-and-blues world including keyboardist Willie Tee Turbinton, his brother, saxophonist Earl Turbinton, guitarist Snooks Eaglin and more.
With the release of My Name Is Bo, Chief Bo Dollis Jr. and the Wild Magnolias continue traveling forward on the path that unites the Mardi Gras Indian Nation with artists from throughout the New Orleans music community. They are, after all, one big family.