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Poor Man's Paradise

Johnny Sansone

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Album Review

Even though Johnny Sansone lost his "jumpin'' prefix, the accordion player/harpist/guitarist/pianist/vocalist hasn't sacrificed any of his spark for his first album in eight years. Produced by fellow New Orleans staple Anders Osborne who also contributes clavinet and slide guitar on two tracks, the album wades in a post-hurricane Katrina haze. Sansone doesn't waste any time attacking the Bush administration for their lackluster response to the devastating events of the storm's aftermath on the opening "Poor Man's Paradise." His accordion sets an unusually downbeat tone to the acerbic lyrics for this bitter yet melodically mid-tempo song. It doesn't really set the mood for the rest of the disc, but is clearly something Sansone needed to get off his chest. The atmosphere lightens considerably from there as he and his band breeze through nine additional tracks, most captured during their first take, live in his New Orleans residence. Even though this is a home recording of the most basic kind, the sound is full, warm, and vivid as the players feed off each other's energy. Sansone is in fine voice throughout, leading his three piece, sometimes augmented by fiddle, backing vocals, and Joe Krown's organ through a swampy set that could only have been created in New Orleans. You can practically smell the city's noted cuisine as blues, R&B, funk, and soul combine in ways that only Crescent City music can. There's occasional humor in the swagger of "Any Dog Would Do," which features a slippery slide solo from Roberto Lutti and tough Chicago styled harp from Sansone. He's witty on "Happiness, Love & Lies" as the band lays into a stripped down yet insistent beat that crackles in a way that only live music can, even if it's recorded without an audience and in a living room. It's the sound of talented friends huddled around and letting the vibe take over. There's a communal, loose knit, yet far from sloppy feel to this project that is captured on tape as the musicians follow Sansone's lead and provide the greasy fuel that powers his motor. The loping "44" sets up a lazy groove for him to glide into as he sings about a robbery gone wrong with a conversational vocal punctuated by a clinched fist harmonica solo. During "Johnny Sadsong," the band seems to be improvising as Sansone blows and the gang propels the song like the session was caught in an inspired moment that just happened to make it onto the album. The closing "I'm Goin' Home" (not the Ten Years After song), is a mournful yet spiritually uplifting gospel styled ballad that ends this sincere disc on a melancholy and introspective note. It's a fine return for a talented musician who has been out of the scene for far too long.

Customer Reviews

Great roots production and harp tone!

Many times people produce roots music like pop albums. This album is done right and Johnny is a true talent. Great harp tone and great musicians to bank him up! New Orleans will always be my favorite music town.

reminds me of mardi gras

love zydeco/blues. album makes me remember, or try to remember fun times in NO.

Poor Man's Paradise, Johnny Sansone
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