Music Reviews
John “Papa” Gros

John “Papa” Gros

Central City

Funky Krewe Records

Let’s have a lockdown party! With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping most of the country in stay-at-home mode, it can get kinda lonely, kinda boring, and generally blah. Well, Papa is here to help you out with a virtual block party for your living room.

Central City is John “Papa” Gros’s love letter to his home town. Gros has been a fixture in New Orleans as a session player, then leader of Papa Gros Funk, and now as a solo artist. Gros has graduated to the front line of culture bearers in the lineage of Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Art Neville, and Professor Longhair. That’s one of the amazing things about New Orleans, the music and traditions live on.

Central City is a working class neighborhood that, like the Treme, has been the incubator for so much talent over the years. Gros serves up a mix of originals and covers to conjure the carefree attitude of the city. “Personality” (originally sung by Lloyd Price) is one of those cheesy chestnuts you’re likely to hear in a Bourbon Street tourist bar. “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” has the swinging feel of early rock and roll (think Fats Domino). “Mardi Gras” lets Papa Gros enumerate the things he loves most about the festival over a lilting Caribbean rhythm.

Central City was recorded before John Prine’s death from COVID-19. Papa Gros’s tuba-driven rendition of “Please Don’t Bury Me,” gives Prine a cheerful jazz funeral. It’s not hard to imagine folks dancing in the street on the way back from the cemetery.

Hard times don’t last. We’ll get through this, too. I’ll see you next year at the Old Absinthe House, and we’ll drink a toast to the good times still to come.

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