LINER NOTES Peter Novelli Louisiana roots & blues
The first time I heard the Peter Novelli Band play, I was on the run.
It was a desperate, despairing sprint away from Bourbon Street—once the pride of musical New Orleans, now little more than a Disneyland for grown-ups, with dull, staid cover bands drowning each other out in a noisy face-off. The deep, rich, and heady heritage of New Orleans music, the birthplace of jazz, lies dead there.
Then I heard Peter make his guitar sing. It was Nawlins music with the N spelt in big bold neon lights—bluesy, jazzy, a smattering of rock, some seriously swampy boogie, a bit of swing—all of it liberally spiced with Cajun rhythms, and rounded off with R&B. He and his band were rocking a little joint on Frenchmen Street, where the 19th Century prettiness of the French Quarter melts into the atmospheric and historic streets of Treme.
Peter has been a blues guitarist for more than three decades, and has worked and played with the who’s who of cajun, zydeco, blues, and R&B music. He brought all these influences and alliances to play in his colorful debut album.
And now Peter has made that leap again, with a second album that resonates with the melodies of Louisiana and New Orleans, and is shot through with edgy Texas blues. This is a sweeping album, effortlessly jumping from easy-going bluesy ballads like Eyes Talk; the solid, swaggering riffs and virtuoso solos in Voodoo Baby; to the tight, slow burn blues of Dyin’ By Numbers. Dig the infectious grooves in Zydeco Lady. Lose yourself in the haunting horns that cut over a gently swaying riff in Treme 3AM—this is pure New Orleans, pure blues.
Evocative, catchy, firmly rooted in tradition and full of soul, Louisiana Roots and Blues has one foot in the past, one foot in the present, and its heart in exactly the right place.
Rudraneil Sengupta writes on music, travel and sports for Mint (www.livemint.com) / Wall Street Journal . He has been a journalist and a feature writer for 8 years, and grew up with the cats, dogs, and the blues.
PETER NOVELLI BIO
Guitarist / singer / songwriter Peter Novelli is based in New Orleans. The Peter Novelli Band plays Louisiana roots and blues, a blend of blues-rock-R&B-funk with some zydeco-cajun influences.
Novelli’s 2nd CD Louisiana Roots & Blues (June 12 release) with his core rhythm section Darryl White (drums, formerly w/ Tab Benoit and Chris Thomas King), Chris Chew (bass, North Mississippi Allstars), Joe Krown (B3 and piano, formerly w/ late Gatemouth Brown), and special guests Chubby Carrier (Grammy-winning zydeco accordionist), Chris Thomas King (lap slide guitar, Grammy “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou”), Shamarr Allen (trumpet), Gordon Minette (piano) and Elaine and Lisa Foster on vocals.
Novelli’s debut CD, produced by bassist David Hyde, hit the blues/roots charts within a month of release and gathered widespread critical acclaim. His originals, with a few selected covers, made a journey through Louisiana-American blues-roots music. Guests include Dr. John, Paul Barrere, Augie Meyers, the late Gatemouth Brown’s rhythm section, and top Lousiana musicians. The CD includes an historical Tribute To Slim Harpo, with members of Harpo’s band including James Johnson, and interviews with Johnson, the late Raful Neal and “Big” Johnny Thomassie.
Novelli started violin at age 6, picked up guitar at 14 after hearing a BB King record. The intensity, passion and raw emotional content of some of the blues masters (black and white, American and British) stuck in his ear and that is what drives him to this day. He likes to combine this feel with harmonic ideas of jazz, the relentless groove of zydeco, and just about any cool and unusual style of music or rhythm that works.
Early influences, along with B.B., were George Barnes, James Burton, Clarence White, Freddie King, Mike Bloomfield, Roy Buchanan, James Johnson (Slim Harpo), Guitar Slim, early Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, Gatemouth Brown, Albert Collins and more. Novelli was strongly influenced by some of the iconic jazz horn players. From a young age, Novelli was into Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Texas blues and R&B.
Growing up, Novelli played in Syracuse, NY rock, blues and country bands. He hung out, jammed and gigged at the legendary underground Jabberwocky (hosted many icons from Townes Van Zandt to Bonnie Raitt, Traffic to Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jackson Browne to James Brown!).
Some years back, after his band opened for Buckwheat Zydeco, Novelli absorbed zydeco and cajun influences, travelling to SW Louisiana, sharing stages and jamming with many of the leaders in zydeco-cajun music like the late Roy Carrier, T. Broussard, Walter Mouton, Steve Riley, Christine Balfa, Wilson Savoy, Cedric Watson, etc. Novelli worked with Louisiana accordionist Sammy Naquin for several years, playing and touring with Sammy and also Cajun fiddle-guitar virtuoso Al Berard.
Novelli has shared stages or recorded with some of the “who’s who” of blues, rock, R&B and roots music, including Dr. John, Sammy Kershaw, Olivier Scoazec, guitar (Zachary Richard, Buckwheat Zydeco); Kalani (Keith Porter & The Itals, English Beat); Greg "Fingers" Taylor (Jimmy Buffett); Smoky Greenwell (formerly WAR); Waylon Thibodeaux; New Orleans R&B guitar legend Irving Bannister; band members of the late R&B legends Ernie K. Doe and Eddie Bo; many New Orleans musical icons, and more.
Novelli performs around New Orleans and tours. He also performs solo guitar, does session work, composes music and guests with numerous other bands and performers.