Songwriter Les Kerr’s New Orleans Set CD is made up of songs the singer has written or co-written relating to New Orleans, a city near to the Gulf Coast native’s heart. The subject matter of ten of the songs, such as Below the Level of the Sea and Streetcar in the Rain, deals directly with New Orleans. Two others, Mackinac Blues and Tourist in a Rental Car, were added for “a little lagniappe,” or “something extra,” according to the singer.
Smile Upon Your Soul, the album’s first track, is about food, including distinctly New Orleans dishes such as Crawfish Etoufee and Shrimp Creole. Kerr said he was hungry for some Cajun cooking when he wrote the song. One of the singer’s signature songs, The Camellia Grill, about a famous New Orleans diner, also finds a place on the CD. As a result of the song, Kerr was invited to perform at the Carrollton Avenue eatery’s 40th anniversary in 1986.
Of particular note is Pray for New Orleans, written by Kerr and Jim Sparks. The song deals with an impending hurricane and was used as a fund-raising tool after Hurricane Katrina caused major flooding in the Crescent City in 2005. However, the song was written in 1999, six years before the storm wreaked havoc in New Orleans and devastated the Mississippi Coast.
“Everyone from that part of the country knew it was a matter of when not if a storm like that would come,” writes Kerr in the CD’s liner notes.
Adding their vocal talents to one of the songs are The Jordanaires, members of the Country Music Hall of Fame who are well-known for their collaborations with Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline and others. They sing on Jingle Bells (Christmas in New Orleans), a Zydeco-flavored treatment of the Christmas classic for which Kerr wrote new lyrics.
New Orleans in the Spring and Mardi Gras Song refer to the famous Carnival season, while Streetcar in the Rain and New Orleans in the Spring are slice-of-life ballads. The whimsical The Sun Also Rises and Midriff Mama Blues show Kerr’s humor, as do Mackinac Blues and Tourist in a Rental Car.
"He's a master of taking everyday slices of life and setting them to music, and his love for New Orleans has been an inspiration for some of his best works. Get a copy of 'New Orleans Set' and 'laissez les bon temps roulet' -- let the good times roll!" Don and Sheryl Crow, Music City Blues Society
"New Orleans Set will leave you searching for a reason to (re)visit New Orleans and explore this grand Southern city...From Mardi Gras, Red Beans & Rice and Shrimp Gumbo in the first track, "Smile Upon Your Soul," to the sad tale of destruction of New Orleans in our favorite track, "Pray for New Orleans." Jan Duke, About.com