New School Jazz @ 25
New School Jazz @ 25

Alexis Marceaux & the Samurai at Spike Hill

by Laura Wasson Alexis marceaux at spike hill 4:22 2

As a Louisiana native, I’ve come to accept a few things about New York: parades aren’t as fun (or wild); you will almost certainly always have to settle for frozen crawfish; and if you want to celebrate Mardi Gras properly, it’s best to throw your own party. With such little lagniappe in this part of the country, I'm always excited to meet people from back home, especially if they come bearing musical gifts.

Such was the case on Sunday night when I ventured out in the torrential downpour to Spike Hill for Alexis Marceaux & the Samurai (also known as Sam Craft). The New Orleans natives are currently touring the Eastern seaboard to promote their latest album, Orange Moon. While the bar was hardly packed—rain and Mad Men will do that—those present were appropriately responsive, clapping and hollering after every song. They would fit right in in the Crescent City.

“Brains,” a track off the new album, began with Marceaux on acoustic guitar and Craft on every other conceivable instrument (drums, violin, keys, etc.). It was evident immediately that Marceaux boasts a rare vocal talent: a strange combination of Sarah McLachlan’s lilting beauty and Linda Perry’s power, Marceaux hit every note with nary a quaver. Such confidence and strength proved an interesting foil to the songs themselves, which felt a bit folky, or even a shade alt-country. With poetic singer/songwriter lyrics and an eclectic, almost Dave Matthews Band-esque sound, each song—from the romantic “Stars” to the surprisingly angry “Shut Up”—had depth and an undeniable pop sensibility.

My favorite song of the evening wasn’t an original, however, it was a cover of the lauded Cajun group The Balfa Freres’ “Parlez-nous a Boire,” which roughly translates to “Let’s Talk about Drinking.” (No one parties like Cajuns do.) Having grown up on Zydeco, I was expecting something traditional or, at least, reverential—washboard optional. But Marceaux and Craft’s take was completely fresh and original, somehow sounding like a rock song. With its pounding drums and shaking tambourines, it was a veritable barn—or, in this case, swamp shanty—burner.

Zydeco is fun, danceable music, but it's fairly niche: I’d venture that the only young people seriously listening to it live somewhere near Lafayette. From what I heard, Marceaux and Craft could change this with their thoroughly twenty-first-century take on the sound. Laissez les bons temps rouler, indeed.