Song Premiere: King Corduroy’s “The Queen of New Orleans” from Avalon Ave prod. Jimbo Hart

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Americana Highways brings you this premiere of King Corduroy’s “The Queen of New Orleans,” from his upcoming release Avalon Ave featuring members of the 400 Unit, musicians of FAME studio acclaim, and was produced by Jimbo Hart.  Avalon Ave is Kurt McMahan on vocals, whistle and electric guitar,  Kaleb Patterson on electric guitar, Jimbo Hart (Jason Isbell) on bass, percussion, and electric guitar,  Chad Gamble (Jason Isbell) on drums and percussion, Al Gamble (St Paul & Broken Bones) on B3 organ, Derry deBorja (Jason Isbell) on accordion, NC Thurman (FAME) on piano, Barry Billings (FAME) on acoustic guitar,  Corey Fritz on trombone, Dennie Kirtley on trumpet,  Kyle Morgan on tenor & baritone sax, and clarinet; with Carla Russell, Amanda Broadway and Yvonne Smith on vocals.  The album was produced by Jimbo Hart, engineered by John Gifford III at FAME Studio A, mixed by Don Srygley at MojoFilter and then mastered by Pete Lyman at Infrasonic Mastering.

With a clearly opulent New Orleans style, this song, like the album itself, is rollicking joy. With a rich depth of layered musicianship, the story of Norma Wallace is revived in “The Queen of New Orleans.”

I was listening to an episode of SNAP Judgment on NPR when I heard the story of Norma Wallace aka The Queen of New Orleans. Chris Wiltz the author of The Last Madame; a book about Norma, was being featured in the segment and the stories she told were just incredible. Norma was the proprietor of a brothel in the French Quarter and is said to have invented the lap dance. I love writing story-telling songs and I am heavily influenced by the sounds of New Orleans so I knew I had to write a song about Norma and I took a bunch of notes while I was listening to the story. 
My Aunt Linda, Uncle CM, and my grandparents all lived in New Orleans and I have been going there since I was a young child. My cousins Christi and Chip took me to my first Mardi Gras Parade when I was just 3 years old. I discovered Professor Longhair, Dr. John, The Meters and Lee Dorsey at a young age. When I was in college, I got hip to Allen Toussaint an amazing singer-songwriter, producer and arranger who was behind a lot of my favorite recordings and albums. There are 2 specific albums he produced for Dr. John with The Meters as the backing band that really left a huge impression on me: In The Right Place and Decisively Bonnaroo. 

When I told Jimbo Hart; the producer of Avalon Ave, that I had a song called “The Queen of New Orleans” he really wanted to hear the tune. Being a former resident of NOLA himself and a lifetime fan of the music, Jimbo wanted to make sure we did New Orleans justice and I couldn’t have agreed more. He knew that the song needed some type of anthem people could sing. That is one of Allen Toussaint’s signature vocal arrangement styles that I love: a rhythmic vocal hook that counters the lead chorus melody. Jimbo knew that the song needed that vibe and came up with the anthem: “Hey now, get out the way now, for The Queen of New Orleans” that was when the song really came together. Then Jimbo had the idea to add a vamp at the end of the song with just the girls singing the chorus line, soaking their voices in reverb and delay. When I heard the mix I said damn man this is such a haunting sound and Jimbo responded: “I wanted it to sound like I’m sittin’ in my old backyard in Mid-City on Maurepas Street listening to the magic cacophony of sounds in the distance echoing from The Fair Grounds…everything just sounds different down there”.

New Orleans music is so special to us; so we wanted to make sure we put all the quintessential New Orleans sonic elements in the song. NC Thurman; a FAME regular session player for years, was Jimbo’s first call. NC’s bread and butter on piano is that James Booker, Dr John and Professor Longhair vibe. Since the piano is essential to the New Orleans sound, I wanted the song to kick off with a signature New Orleans piano lick before the groove comes in and I was in the cutting room trying to relay the message to NC, but he couldn’t settle on what to play. Finally John Gifford; the engineer just hit record and chimed in from the control room asking NC to play some piano so he could check the levels. Giff snagged the first lick NC played and it was the perfect intro. Jimbo felt strongly that the tune needed accordion as well to add another traditional New Orleans element to the soundscape, and his bandmate Derry deBorja was the perfect candidate. One of my favorite Professor Longhair tunes is “Go to the Mardi Gras” which has a really beautiful whistle in the intro and after our song was completed, it hit me that I should add a whistle in there as a nod to The Fess. I couldn’t be happier with the final result. The track really takes you straight to The Crescent City if you just close your eyes. –Kurt McMahan



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