From Jamaica to the Swamp! Bloodstains & Teardrops by Big Chief Monk Boudreaux will be released May 21, 2021 on Tab Benoit’s Whiskey Bayou Records. Joseph “Monk” Boudreaux is the oldest living Mardi Gras Indian Chief, the elder of elders in a tradition dating back to the 1880s. As such, he sees himself as the guardian of a spiritual discipline that involves Gnostic customs and beliefs shared by members within the New Orleans Black community over the course of multiple generations. He is a cultural hero, recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Award, and a well-loved American musical legend. His vast discography includes many records with the Golden Eagles, collaborations with Anders Osborne, Galactic, John Gros and 101 Runners.
On Bloodstains & Teardrops – Big Chief Monk Boudreaux connects the early music of the slaves in New Orleans Congo Square to the Caribbean as he demonstrates its similarities in lyrical, musical, and cultural content. On his journey from the island to the swamp he is joined by a plethora of musical legends including Tab Benoit, Michael Doucet, and Johnny Sansone as well as Jamaican and Louisiana musicians. In the same way, it crossed the ocean in the late 1940s, it’s alive and happening all over again. This record is a dramatic example of how his method of singing as a Mardi Gras Big Chief can apply to other genres.
For this project Monk traveled to Jamaica and back, finding his Reggae groove with the local musicians before returning to Louisiana to finish the record. He had never been to Jamaica before. So, he and manager Rueben Williams went to Jamaica with guitarist Damon Fowler and spent a week looking around Kingston, driving up into the hills to see Bob Marley’s grave and recording with a reggae band and a toasting-style backup vocalist at Tad’s International Limited studio. The six songs Monk cut there reflected the inspiration he got from being in Jamaica and seeing the parallels to his New Orleans home. Back in Louisiana, co-producer Tab Benoit cut additional material at his studio to complete the album. But the lines between blues, swamp music and reggae become blurred as Monk develops his songs.
Many of these songs recorded in Benoit’s studio have a strong Blues element, mixing guitars, fiddle, organ and harmonica with Boudreaux’s signature vocals. “Choo Choo” is a classic train song theme propelled by Sansone’s insistent harmonica. “Kingston Blues” is a hard-driving slow blues with searing lead guitar over a powerful organ riff. “On Bended Knees” has a driving feel with Sansone’s third position harmonica over the minor guitar and fiddle. “Indian Blues” is a one-chord vamp reminiscent of John Lee Hooker’s style, slide guitar fills and solos alternating with Michael Doucet’s bowed fiddle.
Bloodstains & Teardrops record release celebration will take place Friday May 14 in New Orleans at Zony Mash, with special guests Johnny Sansone and Waylon Thibodeaux.