It’s like Cajun comfort food, soothing to the body and soul. It’s the stuff you sway to late at night in some dimly lit, smoke-filled honky-tonk, holding on to your beloved of the moment. Although labeled “swamp pop,” this genre’s influence and range has spread far beyond the Louisiana swamplands where it originated in the 1950s. Artists like Cookie and the Cupcakes (“Mathilda”), Phil Phillips (“Sea of Love”) and even some of Fats Domino’s catalog (“Walking to New Orleans”) are considered swamp pop classics, as is most anything by swamp pop king Bobby Charles Guidry.
Drummer Warren Storm is considered the godfather of the genre, his mellow vocals delivering the material like a warm bowl of gumbo that sticks to your ribs, warming your heart as it glides by.
Taking the World, By Storm is an offshoot of Yvette Landry’s bio of Storm, Taking the World, By Storm: A Conversation with Warren “Storm” Schexnider, The Godfather of Swamp Pop, released last October. Landry, a musician and educator as well as an author, initially wanted to re-release some of Storm’s old catalog to accompany the book, but decided instead to re-cut some of his classic material with some new guests onboard. John Fogerty steps up to trade lyrics with Storm on the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic “Long As I Can See the Light.”
Sonny Landreth donates some greasy, wiggly slide with Marc Broussard taking the lead vocal for a crusty, soulful take on the Cookie and the Cupcakes “Mathilda.”
The backing band is Roddie Romero’s Louisiana-based Hub City Allstars, three-time Grammy-nominated roots rockers who pack a powerful punch. Fats Domino’s “Let the Four Winds Blow” gets an upgrade courtesy of Allstars drummer Gary Usie’s infectious second line, with former Iguana founding member Derek Huston’s tenor sax recalling the honkin’ glory days when sax giants Lee Allen and Herb Hardesty graced Domino’s band.
Bobby Charles’ “Tennessee Blues” sounds like a Jerry Lee Lewis vehicle (though Lewis himself never recorded it), with Storm channeling The Killer’s desperate yet laid-back country style side in this cry-in-your-beer country weeper.
Slim Harpo’s “Rainin’ in My Heart” sounds more Jerry Lee than Slim, but that’s cool. Masquerading as The Killer, Storm is much more sinister, his version not a plea but a demand: “Don’t you let me cry in vain,” he warns his departed beloved: “I’m about to lose my mind.” And to anybody familiar with Jerry Lee’s history, that’s a scary thing indeed.
Landry’s project comes off not as a rehash, but a fresh look at old favorites that have stood the test of time. Storm’s 82-year-old vocal cords still sound as mellow as ever, delivering a swamp-flavored gumbo that still hits the spot.