F. L. Lowe
Coping with the Rodeo of Love
Usually a later version of a song is called a “cover”, as though it were of less value than the original. Sometimes, though, it seems more appropriate to discount the original, since the later model is better. In the first cut of her new CD, Gumbo Rodeo, Gayla presents herself as the supreme artist she is: her rendition of "These Boots Are Made for Walking" transcends the original version by Nancy Sinatra, which I now consider but the prototype. Particularly enjoyable is Gayla’s catchy, syncopated phrasing on this piece. A good start to the set. Moreover, “Boots” establishes a theme for the CD, beginning the material with a firm, resolute stance, and foreshadowing a bit of the mood evoked by the sublime original material which follows.
“How Our Mamas Raise Us”, a nice little confessional warning, is the next cut. Ah, those sexy, foxy bayou girls! Is that really how their mamas raise them? Well, in any event this upbeat song sounds a strong note in the chord Gayla is making with her lyrical Gumbo. First the lady’s tough, and a bit possessively vengeful with her hard-ass boots; then, to flesh out the picture, she’s marvelously endowed with social talents, in a masterful way. A belle.
Up next? The Hog Man adventure, “Harley Davidson”, which depicts at the same time a rescue scenario and a libidinous freedom to wildly escape. Terrific song, which should have been accompanied by a warning to the male listener to wear a drool bib, and will henceforth require the songwriter/singer to employ a corps of bodyguards, lest she be subjected to the abuse of countless salacious offers, suggestions, invitations, propositions, and kidnaping attempts.
“Been There, Done That”. Another in this series of self-possessed, independent-woman lunges. And another solid cut, both as to the statement made and the manner of making it, lyrically and musically. What else can be said? Gayla continues seducing the listener by the wanton power of the visuals her songs produce. There is a certain world-weary, don’t-care tone which transports the audient into a snippet of film noir, i.e., stuff with an edge, not Norman Rockwell scenery.
“Lou’siana Bayou and You”. The story continues - in noir or gris or Van Gogh brush strokes, or whatever you, dear reader, may be employing in your own assessment of this material. An admirable ambiguity in this song permeates the questions of Why the narrator returned to Lou’siana; Why she has overstayed her intended visit; Why indeed she remains on the bayou; and Who may be implicated in her lingering. That vagueness allows one to daub onto the mental canvas or silver screen any number of possibilities. Family, lover, comfortable culture, whatnot. That is to say, Gayla’s writing, as well as the ordered structure of the CD, is art. The sort one takes in, and then re-examines at leisure.
“Fire and Gasoline” is simply stunning. Knocks me out. Does so to the degree that it is difficult to be analytical. I'm sensing that a small part of the effect is the visual of the sudden whoof! of the ignition of an open container of gasoline. Part is the musical contrast between the short word fire, and the more extendable gasoline. Then, there is the notion of a chemistry which is uncontrollable. At this point in the series it is possible to connect the dots of “Harley”, “Bayou”, and “Fire & Gasoline”, in portraying an intense affair. You won’t need a video to spoonfeed you searing Sex and Violence - everyone's fave - just listen with your ears and your imagination.
A return to a love-lorn feeling in “A Friend?”. The complaint is well stated, and there is the notion that the singer is in a spot, Here, and longs to be in some other place, There. Ever been here and there? The tension of that unfulfilled desire energizes the song, and Baby, it adds spice to the complex situation thus far imaginable in what has been sung up by Gayla.
The cast of characters suffers a loss in “Too Bad, So Sad”. With the second reference to "mama", a thread of vulnerability is maintained while the nettle of change is firmly grasped. The integrity gleams. The listener who is identifying with the story may feel, or continue to experience, an urge to comfort the singer. Heartbreak can do that. It's another Wow cut. Gayla’s work is constant. And more than solid; It’s salivatingly good.
Well, after the stern dismissal of the object of the pronouncement in the previous song, I would suppose an emotional letdown is to be expected, and “Tell Me, Mama” brings it, full force. The singer is now less strong, less resolved, more vulnerable than she had been at the outset of the story. Pretty much a basket case, it would appear, particularly when at the end, the phone is off the hook. (Is a phone off the hook itself a hook???) If one is much beyond adolescence, ‘e knows that the depression following a breakup is genuine, as is the reaching out for consolation and guidance from a parent figure.
My hat's off to whoever arranged the sequence of these songs. I bow to that person, and kiss his ring or her hand, and I prostrate myself to adore the feet as well. No, no, no. I’m not talking kink; it’s abject admiration and awe. The reflective and plaintive “J'ai Passé Devant Ta Porte”, a sensuously slow, agonizingly poignant French waltz standard which even now at this writing sticks in the mind’s ear and slows the pulse of the heart, gently pulls the aircraft of the album out of its downward emotional spiral. The porte is not just the door of the abode of the beloved, but it's the door that led to other things - to stagnation, to repeated hurt, to addiction - to the boots, the bayou, the Harley, the fire, the adieu. It’s a door passed by with some remorse, but with dignity and purposeful resolution. Oh, sing it to me.
At first one might regard as completely extraneous the final tune, “Fat Tuesday”. It ain’t. It’s intrinsic to the story. It brings one to the finest opportunity to just Let Go, i.e., Mardi Gras. Celebrate. Explore. Be free. Be alive! The song is the spice in the gumbo. What’s happened is not the end. It's not an end. Fat Tuesday is the sustained note which says to Life, as lovers must say to New Orleans after the Katrina’s devastation: Allons! Let us continue.