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Kim "Festival Junkie" WelshBy Kim "Fest Junkie" Welsh

Ernie VincentErnie Vincent

New Orleans own Funk'n Blues living legend Ernie Vincent is mounting a powerful resurgence in the Crescent City. A product of New Orleans rhythm and blues, Ernie Vincent has been on the music scene since the mid 1960's playing r&b/funk and collaborating with Ernie K-Doe, King Floyd, Tommy Ridgley, Oliver Morgan, Irving Bannister, Eddie Bo, Jessie Hill and more.

In the early 70's Ernie broke loose and created his own band and signature sound with the Top Notes, churning out smash hits like “Things are Better” and in 1972 “Dap Walk” for which Vincent has gone down in the deep funk history books. “Dap Walk,” (named after his bass player nicknamed “Dap” who had an unusual gait) is an unhinged masterpiece of wah wah guitar, multiple drum breakdowns, and positive ghetto messages, and to this day it remains a cult classic all over the world! Yes, you HAVE heard it… think “Soul Train” in 1972! The mere sound of it makes white boys do the funky chicken like no one is looking!

Vincent’s appearance is intense, his riffs smoothly rhythmic and his leads as stinging as a hive of angry queen bees. Ernie has been a special guest at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for many years and his busy schedule in the next couple months includes the French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest in addition to many gigs in and near New Orleans, from Mobile to Lafayette. Ernie has been playing the club scene in New Orleans and music festivals worldwide either as a front man or backing such artists as Joe Tex, Solomon Burke, Alex Spearman and many of the indigenous Mardi Gras Indian bands such as the Wild Magnolias and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles. Recently, Ernie Vincent and his newly reformed Top Notes band have been electrifying crowds regularly with his signature “wah wah guitar” mastery. The “new” Top Notes band consists of some of the most talented and accomplished up and coming musicians in New Orleans including Eric Heigle on drums, Phil Breen on keyboards, Josh Reppel on bass, James Martin on sax, Mike Kobrin on trumpet, and when available, local trumpet sensation Shamarr Allen will join the horn section.

A new CD will be released soon in time for French Quarter Fest. This scorching session was recorded live at d.b.a. on Frenchmen Street. Ernie also collaborated with local bluesman Andrew Duhon on an acoustic delta blues CD entitled “Bayou Road Blues” which was released on July 2, 2009 received rave reviews worldwide and nominations for a Grammy. Tom Clarke of Blues Revue Magazine stated, "There’s hardship reflected in the brooding “Bayou Road,” relationship woes in the insistently rocking “Just Like My Woman,” and of course sexual innuendo in the front porch ruminations of “I’m Your Snake Baby.” All ten songs are Vincent’s and every one is more staggering with time." George Fish with the Illinois Blues Society Web Magazine “Blues Blast” added "...this combination of acoustic guitar with harp is reminiscent of Buddy Guy and Junior Wells’ “Alone and Acoustic” CD on Alligator, as well as Sonny Boy Williamson II’s 1963 acoustic work with Matt “Guitar” Murphy."

My friend and fellow photographer, Jerry Moran, who is also Ernie’s manager, said “Since taking over managing Ernie early last year, we made a concerted effort to put a consistent group of players together to reform Ernie’s backup Top Notes band, a group he could trust to unleash his vast catalogue with on a new level. The challenge in New Orleans is with so many incredibly talented musicians playing with so many bands simultaneously, putting together a consistent “show” that people can expect to see every appearance can be a challenge. Fortunately, through relationships I have nurtured working with a lot of the musicians in town through my primary occupation and passion , photography, we were able to hand pick some of the hottest young talent available along with securing commitments from them to see this project all the way through. The results of this “alliance” of playing and rehearsing consistently over the past year is quite rewarding in the powerful caliber of Ernie's signature “Funk'n Blues” shows the band has been putting on in and around New Orleans as of late. As one of Ernie's classic hits says, “Things Are Better,” much better now, but trust me, we’re not even halfway to where we’re goin’ yet!”

I had the pleasure of hearing Ernie fire it up and kick it on the same smokin’ Gibson hollow body that he used when he recorded “Dap Walk” recently at Le Bon Temps Roule on Magazine Street. His young band is talented and quite promising. He tore down the house with his nuanced guitar work on songs such as Night at the Club, Katrina Blues, River City People, Party on the Bayou, The Things I Used to Do, Kickin’ the Blues, Rock Me Baby, Just Like My Woman, Red House, Just a Little Bit, Mardi Gras Chief, Sissy Strut, Swamp Daddy, and Dap Walk. He is caught in a time-warp, a throwback to bygone days of old Louisiana juke joints in the swamp. During a break, we talked about growing up in New Orleans, his family in Thibodaux, playing at Ernie K-Doe’s Mother-in-Law Lounge when it opened in 1994, life as a longshoreman and a blues musician, and the regrettable fact that “there’s no good barbeque in New Orleans.” He was personable and friendly and one helluva nice guy as well as a living legend. I will definitely catch his performance in the Blues Tent on the closing Sunday, May 3rd of the upcoming Jazz Fest!

Speaking of that, the nutria saw his shadow and it has been a long, cold winter here in N’awlins. I’ve been going through withdrawal, but soon Spring will blossom and it will be Festival Season… I’ve been jonesing for it too long!

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