With an array of horns and a squadron of lockstep percussion, The Hot 8 Brass Band rejuvenates the folk music of their native New Orleans. Indeed, the members of the band grew up admiring the second-line statesmen of their city, sneaking around to catch sets by the likes of the Rebirth Brass Band. As drummer Samuel "Lil Sammy" Cyrus admitted in a 2009 interview, he and his pals pretended to play second-line music with the same enthusiasm that many kids bring to basketball or video games. "We used to walk around the neighborhoods every day like with boxes, make little straps, poke holes in the boxes and just walk around the neighborhood playing music, faking like we're playing something," he remembered, laughing.
They're not faking it anymore, though: Milwaukee Fat, a new two-sided single on brazen British label Tru Thoughts, stacks the horn harmonies and embattles the steady consonance with the slightly psychedelic chug of funk guitar and horn solos that venture into the blues before rising back to join the party. They're sassy, too, overrunning the typical choruses with lyrics about food and smoke and sheer celebration.
And make no mistake that this music concerns joie de vivre. After watching their native wards be destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and having outlasted the gun-related deaths of several members, the Hot 8 serves now as an ebullient and urgent emissary of its city, lifting both horns and spirits at once. —Grayson Currin