Carlo Ditta is a veteran New Orleans-based producer, label owner and a remarkable singer and songwriter in his own right. Following a stint in NYC where he helmed recordings for acts like Willy DeVille, he returned to New Orleans and began recording the likes of Danny Barker, Mighty Sam McClain, Roland Stone, Little Freddie King, Guitar Slim Jr., Coco Robicheaux, Rockie Charles and the Original Pinstripe Brass Band. Now he’s released an album (his second), where he steps to the front as guitarist and singer; Hungry for Love.
Hungry for Love teams Carlo with handpicked music veterans responsible for some of Southern Louisiana’s most enduring and beloved ‘60s recordings. The album was released on Ditta’s own Orleans Records label May 3rd.
Ditta presents himself and the area’s soulful rhythm-and-blues legacy through five originals, colorful remakes of regional R&B and Funk classics, and imaginative interpretations of traditional songs, drawing on his decades of experience producing amazing albums for some of New Orleans’ most powerful if underappreciated talents.
Hungry for Love features performance by saxophonist and keyboardist Andrew Bernard (John Fred and the Playboys); bassist Earl Stanley (Dr. John, Roger and the Gypsies, Earl Stanley and the Stereos); keyboardist Rick Stelma (Dr. Spec’s Optical Illusion); bassist David Hyde; and drummer Chewy “Thunderfoot” Black all of whom appeared on Ditta’s 2014 solo debut What I’m Talkin’ About. Other local legends who contribute to the new album include saxophonists Jerry Jumonville (Captain Beefheart, Bette Miller, Rod Stewart); saxophonist Johnny Pennino (Skip Easterling, Freddy Fender); and drummer Freddy Staehle (Dr. John, Al Hirt, Eric Clapton).
With the album’s title song Carlo and company conjure a hypnotic hoodoo vibe worthy of North Louisiana legend Tony Joe White. The remake of Eddie Powers’ “Gypsy Woman Told Me,” includes bass from Earl Stanley who co-wrote it and played on the 1964 original. He also plays on “Pass the Hatchet,” the local proto-funk hit from 1966 he helped write and recorded with Roger and the Gypsies.
In “La MuChaCha Cha,” another original, Ditta inveigles against an unfaithful lover over seductively warm and grooving Latin rhythms; Spanish guitar and congas reinforce the tropical vibe. “Agnes English” by Baton Rouge hit-makers John Fred and the Playboys, gets a spooky makeover that features Andrew Bernard, an original member of the Playboys and co-writer of the song, playing tenor sax and Wurlitzer keyboards.
Carlo goes full-tilt Soul on “Working So Hard for My Baby’s Love,” an original composition featuring Jumonville’s gutsy sax playing and inventive arranging. In the contemplative, reggae-flavored “Life in Heaven,” Ditta addresses big questions about life and love, singing as low and breathy as late period Leonard Cohen.
All these tracks are deeply steeped in Louisiana’s steamy, soulful rhythm-and-blues heritage which he’s labored to preserve and promote, rediscovering and producing albums for overlooked veteran artists from the region and released them on his Orleans Records label.
When he reactivated the label in 2014, one of his first releases was a previously unreleased live concert by New Orleans icon Professor Longhair.
On Hungry for Love, Carlo proves himself a worthy successor to the amazing musicians he championed.