Peter Novelli's St. Amant Sessions smacks of Tab Benoit's The Sea Saint Sessions (Telarc, 2003). For Benoit, the significance of Sea Saint Studios is that they are a NOLA landmark founded by Allen Toussaint. For Novelli, St. Amant, LA is up I-10 between NOLA and Baton Rouge. There, Brignac's Sound Shack resides and this is where, Novelli recorded his third collection, St. Amant Sessions. Both men play a brand of American and blues that can immediately be identified as from Louisiana. However, the two approach their treatments of Louisiana music differently.
Where Benoit hails from Houma, deep in the Louisiana swampland, Novelli comes from further north. Benoit's music is infused with Zydeco, particularly in the shuffling rhythm that propels a good many of his songs. Novelli pours a more solid blues-rock foundation for his music that, while retaining the NOLA shuffle, bears a sharper edge, honed with jazz and country overtones and a heapin' slab of southern-fried backbeat. Novelli opens the disc with the rave-up "Louisiana Sunrise," featuring one Sonny Landreth playing his surgically-accurate slide guitar. It is a fine performance over a sauntering twelve-bar figure that sets the stage for the rest of the recording. Landreth is like cayenne, lime and garlic, his contributions improve everything they are a part of.
Novelli possesses a guitar capability that is heads and shoulders above many of his contemporaries. He is playing is facile and intelligent across the sub-genre of his oeuvre. He peppers St. Amant Sessions with powerful instrumentals. "Boudin" features his precise and slashing guitar playing over a Meters funk motif. Drummer Brian Brignac is afforded space to display his wares among Novelli's sparks. It is jazz by any other name. "Shreveport Stomp" includes elements of the Beatles, Bill Haley and Jerry Reed in Novelli's guitar playing. He hits on his country cylinders. "I-10 Boogie" pulls out all stops as a bar- walking, trash talking, instrumental where Novelli shows what he is made of. It is "pots on...gas on high."
Lousiana Sunrise; Boudin; Je Ne Sais Quoi; Spirit Passing By; Bourbon
Street Blues; Woman in My Dreams; Story In Your Mind; Shreveport
Stomp; Thinkin’ or Drinkin’; I-10 Boogie; Zyedco Ride.
Peter Novelli: vocals, guitar; Chris Senac: bass; Brian Brignac:
drums; Kevin McKendree: keyboards; Chubby Carrier: triple row
accordion (10, 11); Elaine Foster: background vocals; Bobby
Henderson: tenor saxophone, vocals (9); Sonny Landreth: slide guitar
(1); Sammy Naquin: single row accordion (3, 9).