As the gist of this column is to raise the awareness of acts who provide quality music but aren’t especially lauded I reckoned that The Deslondes, a five-piece outfit from New Orleans fitted the bill. To AUK’s credit, we’ve reviewed a couple of the band’s releases and this writer saw them play a spectacular show a few years back which cemented, to my mind, that they truly deserve more attention.
A primary attraction is that all five band members (Dan Cutler, Sam Doores, Riley Downing, Cameron Snyder, and John James Tourville) contribute to the songwriting with four of them taking turns in singing their songs, leading to a fine variety evident on the albums and in their live shows. In this they follow in the footsteps of The Band and others such as The Felice Brothers and Western Centuries. In addition, they create songs that draw from country, folk, blues, soul, rock’n’roll and good old-fashioned New Orleans syncopation, all mixed up in the merry gumbo which is The Deslondes.
The band coalesced in the melting pot of New Orleans, the members gravitating there from all across the USA to find a like-minded community of buskers and barflies including the fledging Hurray For The Riff Raff, with Doores and Cutler playing in that band for a while before forming The Tumbleweeds and releasing an album in 2012. Joined by Snyder, Tourville, and Downing they rehearsed at an abandoned high school in the Lower Ninth Ward that had been empty since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 calling the band The Deslondes, taken from a street in the Lower Ninth’s Holy Cross neighbourhood. Signed by New West Records they released their self-named debut album in 2015. New Orleans is writ large from the moment they launch into the opening song, ‘Fought the Blues And Won’ which perfectly captures the easy rolling blues style of Dave Bartholomew and has a great 1950s retro sound to it. Throughout the album the band slip into retro rock styles with ease and with five songwriters on board they just about cover the whole gamut. From the high-yearning sound of ‘Heavenly Home’ to the rocking trucker song ‘Less Honkin’ More Tonkin’’ along the cinematic western sound of ‘Time To Believe In’, it’s a great debut.
They followed up with 2017’s ‘Hurry Home’, an album equally as good and, once again, they open with a terrific song, ‘Muddy Water’. Sounding like a very stoned version of The Band they revel in the wonky delivery which is quite magnificent. The Everly’s loom large on ‘One Of Those Lonesome Mornings’ while they travel down a Ricky Nelson heartthrob avenue on ‘She Better Be Lonely’. When they were touring this album your writer was lucky enough to see them play at Celtic Connections where they exceeded all expectations turning in an excellent show which was studded with covers of New Orleans-related songs from the past including Frankie Ford’s ‘Sea Cruise’. They were quite sublime.
With families to raise, the band members took a hiatus for the next few years. Both Doores and Downing released solo albums (which are both well worth listening to) but when the pandemic had taken its toll the natural response was to regroup and so a third album was born. ‘Ways & Means’, released in 2022 found the band in a more expansive mode with a wider spectrum of instruments filling out the sound. Despite this, there’s no doubt that it’s The Deslondes as the hangdog shuffle of ‘Good To Go’ opens the proceedings and the rambunctious title song retains that fat and juicy New Orleans sound. There might be strings and exotic percussion on songs such as ‘Consider Me’ and ‘Wild Eden’ but essentially the band remain true to their unique vision of what they call country soul music played by a real band of brothers.