American music casts a big shadow. There are many regional accents and generational evolutions, from folk music to jazz.
Down in the Louisiana bayou, the creole cooking percolated with R&B, zydeco, and dixieland. Johnette Downing and Scott Billington have taken 20 years of firsthand experience to produce Swamp Romp, a collection of 16 Nawlins’- (New Orleans, to those unaware of the city’s pronunciation by its residents) infused tracks.
The singing couple’s roots are suitably and organically synched with the territory – Johnette growing up in the area listening to her parents and siblings playing ragtime in the French Quarter. Scott performed in New England coffeehouses working on his sound before meeting Johnette at a New Orleans music conference, leading to their marriage in 2013.
There’s a bouillabaisse of musicians contributing to the selections on Swamp Romp, from members of the Dukes of Dixieland, ReBirth Brass Band, and Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and such interestingly named individuals as “Washboard Chaz” Leary, and Lee Allen Zeno (to pick a few).
Swamp Romp took five years to bring to fruition. For their labor of love,
Johnette and Scott provide both a sonic recreation of New Orleans as well as an education of the culture. “J’ai Vu Le Loup, Le Renard Et La Belette” retells an old French dance tune. “Bamboula Rhythm” recounts the African freed slaves who gathered to socialize. “How To Dress A Po’ Boy” and its accompanying video could find a place on a cooking show, with an entree of “Crawfish Etouffée.”
Swamp Romp comes with a booklet (if you get the physical CD) with descriptions and photos for each song.
But the real attraction is the authenticity and simplicity of the music produced by Johnette and Scott, recorded at home in the bayou with longtime collaborator Steve Reynolds as recording engineer, and delivered directly to young audiences.
Here is the video for “Who Got the Baby in the King Cake,” which was also turned into a children’s book: