FICTION: From the creative mind of award-winning New Orleans native John Gregory Brown, A Thousand Miles From Nowhere is a modern-day tragic hero story of a refugee’s path to self-discovery post-Katrina. After evacuating the city, the story’s protagonist, Henry Garrett, gains asylum in an old motel in Virginia where he finds kindness and inspiration from the unlikeliest of people. After a random accident and unfortunate twist of fate, Garrett discovers the only way he can absolve his demons is by returning to New Orleans. Brown’s newest book is a haunting tragic comedy full of wit and grit, and reflects on mental illness, compassion, redemption and the unbroken spirit of New Orleans.
FOLK: New Orleans-based Haitian musician Leyla McCalla is multi-talented, multilingual and a gem among the music community’s transplants. A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey features McCalla showcasing a tender and moving cello rhythm, while she intermittently incorporates jazzy blues with high-energy bluegrass and francophone lullabies. The tracks offer a dynamic listening experience, involving a rise and fall of delicate cello pizzicato and a soft build of swinging romantic high-notes, to spirited guitar acoustics complemented by a banjo and fiddle accompaniment. Her title track’s music video was also filmed in Louisiana’s scenic lush bayou setting. Released in late May and produced by Jazz Village, give this album a listen in its entirety and feel inspired to take a walk down the nearest bayou with your shoes off.
JAZZ: Listening to Allen Toussaint’s American Tunes feels much like drinking aged bourbon with an old friend – it’s flavorful, familiar and leaves you feeling warm and a little bit tingly. The sequel to his 2009 collaborative album, Bright Mississippi, also produced by Joe Henry, American Tunes was recorded just one month before Toussaint’s death in November. Listening to New Orleans R&B genius’ rich, eloquent and swinging arrangements, including jazzified tracks by Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Paul Simon and more, is evocative and reminiscent of our city’s lost legends.