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May 01, 2017 Travers Geoffray

"New Orleans": Behind the Song

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New Orleans is a glass half full, glass half empty kind of place.

I’ve woken up on mornings thinking that I am living in the greatest American city and gone to bed that same day wondering if I should move somewhere else.  It seems that where there is great happiness and celebration, great pain and tragedy lurks in the shadows. I’ve seen Mardi Gras Indians march on streets that were wet with blood a week earlier. Tremendous beauty, tremendous carnage.  

The tune “New Orleans" on Highway Kings is a cover of the J.J. Cale tune from his record, Travel-log.

Other than the sly groove and the slinky vocal melody, I was drawn to what Cale wrote about New Orleans. The lines seem to carry this double meaning: “crying the blues is what they do down there” or “drinking bourbon from a Dixie cup, hanging out ‘til the sun comes up.” The melancholy in the music casts a shadow over these lines.

"Crying the blues" can be an expression of triumph or glory, and duly one of tragedy and destitution.

Partying until the sun comes up (done by yours truly from time to time) is a reason why most folks visit New Orleans. But often they leave their trash behind and go home. For some, the party never stops but stops looking like a party after a while…

J.J. Cale captured this complicated perspective of New Orleans, one that I, and I’m sure folks who have been here a lot longer than I have, wrestle with too.

Whether the glass is half full or half empty, most of us are happy that there was something to drink in the first place.   

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