The name alone is enough to get your attention: The New Orleans Swamp Donkeys Traditional Jass Band. And they’re out in full force with the two-disc Slightly Concussed – Live at De Melkbus (2017).
This versatile group of musicians play traditional jazz, blues and New Orleans style, or Dixieland. Formed in 2012, they began touring nationally in 2013 and sold out the Blue Note in New York City in February of 2014. Word got around after the group performed their version of the “Game of Thrones” theme at B.B. King’s in New York City. A video of the performance went viral, scoring more than a million views.
Personnel are James Williams, vocals and trumpet; Sam Friend, banjo and vocals; Miles Lyons, sousaphone; Nick Garrison, trombone; Josh Marotta, percussion; and Connor Stewart, clarinet and saxophone.
If there’s one knock on this collection, it’s that Williams tries too hard to emulate Louis Armstrong’s throaty, grinding vocal sound. Williams sounds forced rather than relaxed, particularly on songs that Armstrong is known for, like “Hello, Dolly” and “Just a Gigolo.” Even so, the music is fabulous. Disc 1 highlights are “Buddy Bolden,” “Star Dust” and “Struttin’ with Some BBQ.” On Disc 2, “Dinah,” “September in the Rain” and “Swamp Donkeys Theme Song.”