Weekly Wire
Gambit Weekly Victory Celebration

By Geraldine Wyckoff

MARCH 2, 1998:  Waking up on Mardi Gras morning to June Victory's rhythm-infested, let's-go-get-em "Down on the Bayou" will definitely put you in the spirit. It's got that special Mardi Gras Indian, Caribbean-touched beat that is the backbone of so many Mardi Gras songs. It demands that you dance. The tune is the opener of Victory and the Bayou Renegades' brand-new eponymous CD, which is out just in time for the holiday.

The music here is best described as "the Meters meet the Mardi Gras Indians." On one hand, you have Victory's raw guitar and Earl Nunez's bass producing some mighty deep funk. When they work out on the instrumental "Runaway Indian," the result is reminiscent of George Porter and Leo Nocentelli grooving with the Meters in the early years. Solid drumming from Jasmin, Victory's longtime musical partner, keeps that funky edge going.

Then there are the Indian themes and chants like the ones heard on "Hold 'Em Joe" and "Early in the Morning." Victory, who spent years performing and recording with Big Chief Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias -- Victory played on Dollis' They Call Us Wild and with the chief on the compilation disc Super Sunday Showdown -- is firmly rooted in Indian traditions. Those influences are present in his chants and vocal inflections as he sings of Carnival day and the Indian gangs. Victory also is a very melodic musician, one who takes a step off the streets and into the dancehalls. The idiom is broadened by an expanded band that includes the soulful saxophone of Anaray James, the keyboards of Dwight Casanova and the percussion of Norwood "Geechie" Johnson and Patrick Williams.

Tambourines and the whooping and hollering in the background of the fast-paced "Early in the Morning" enhance the energetic feeling of the disc and put the listener in the circle of percussion. Meanwhile, on "Cherie," Victory and his band move closer to the musical "mainstream" with more standard elements moving from verse to chorus. There's also a touch of rock 'n' roll added to the Indian and funk and accented by Victory's thoroughly bent guitar notes. The modern blues/rock style of "Take Your Chances" is a passionate love song with a Jimi Hendrix flair. Victory burns this tune up with his seductive guitar work, which is at once minimal and intricate.


June Victory and the Bayou Renegades (Monkey Hill)

Victory quietly creeps into the swamp on "Sometimes You Never Know," a voodoo-flavored song reminiscent of something you might hear from Dr. John. Victory is alone on the vocals here and demonstrates that even when he's soft and bluesy, he remains powerful.

There's a new take on Professor Longhair's "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" when Victory reworks it as "Mardi Gras Time." He adds Indian chants like "Big Chief drinking that fire water" to the well-loved Mardi Gras anthem while leaving intact such familiar lyrics as "Got my ticket in my hand, we're going to go to New Orleans."

The disc ends with "The Real Deal," which begins up-tempo and then melts with a Victory guitar slur, only to pick up the rhythm once again. His soloing here and throughout the album is so tasty, and, most important, it lacks the excessiveness that hampers so many other guitarists. Victory leaves room for the rhythm section to jump in, which drives the music and maintains our interest.

The music of June Victory and the Bayou Renegades is totally New Orleans. With its roots in the traditions of Mardi Gras Indians, funk and the swamps, it simply could not originate anywhere else. Particularly during Carnival time, nothing but New Orleans music will do, making this album essential and one that should be in your Carnival music collection. With its many moods and focuses, however, it's right for any time of year.

June Victory overflows with talent and deserves greater recognition. This album just might be the rhythmic boost to make his a household name among lovers of authentic New Orleans music.


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