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ALLEN TOUSSAINT AT THE HAMILTON, WASHINGTON DC
IT'S A NEW ORLEANS THING
November 25, 2013

On a cold Monday evening, Allen Toussaint proudly strolled on stage at The Hamilton in Washington DC and transported a capacity crowd to the sounds and stories of New Orleans. He had no accompaniment besides the grand piano and his own unlimited imagination and power to connect.

Toussaint is one of popular music's greatest treasures. He has written, arranged and produced over 50 years of hits recorded by artists as diverse as Lee Dorsey, LaBelle, Glen Campbell, Irma Thomas, The Rolling Stones, Esther Phillips, The Pointer Sisters and Rufus. This is a testament to his class and status.

Toussaint has only recently begun performing as a solo act in the years since his home and studio were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. He was admittedly reticent to strike out as a solo performer, preferring the comfort of his studio. After playing some dates at Joe's Pub in New York he has thankfully settled into being out front.

This performance was based on his recent SONGBOOK (Rounder) release, which was recorded during those dates and celebrates his seemingly endless and seamless collection of soundscapes and scenarios. He opened with "It's a New Orleans Thing" celebrating "the Tipitina" he was bringing with him, with its immediately identifiable New Orleans rolling piano style. Highlights included the Irma Thomas classic "It's Raining" and "Fortune Teller," one of his most recorded songs and the Ernie K-Doe hit "Mother-In-Law."

One of his favorite muses, who he swears he still writes songs for, is Lee Dorsey, who was the subject of several amusing stories associated with songs like "Sneaking Sally Through The Alley" and "Holy Cow."

The real "New Orleans Thing" came through on songs like "I Could Eat Crawfish Everyday" and "Mr. Mardi Gras Man" during which he tossed "throws" into the crowd. The audience also got to participate with sing-alongs to "Yes We Can Can" and "A Certain Girl" ( "I can't tell ya!").

Classics like "St.James Infirmary" were in the set as well. Many songs were woven in medleys where Toussaint's playing was a marvel. He flowed from classical themes, to blues, to R&B, to folk to saloon songs to jazz with ease and grace yet always rooted in that singular New Orleans Thing. His smooth voice and humble demeanor added to the enchantment of his stories.

Toussaint closed the show with "Southern Nights," one of his most enduring songs and the title track form his most successful solo album in 1975. It is a definitive celebration of the land that shaped his artistry over all these years. As this tour continues, make sure you allow yourself to be captivated by this living legend.


About the Writer
Michael Lewis is a long-time associate at SoulMusic.com. His industry experience includes Sony Music, Motown and La Face Records, and a tenure at HEAR Music. He is grateful to contribute to sustaining the legacy of R&B and soul music.
  
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