Papa Mali & the Instagators Thunder Chicken (Fog City)

SXSW Records

Record Reviews

Papa Mali & the Instagators

Thunder Chicken (Fog City)

As steeped in Mardi Gras parade rhythms as Papa Mali & the Instagators have always been, it's hardly a surprise that the real lead instrument on Thunder Chicken is drummer "Frosty" Smith's whipcrack snare. With all due respect to "Papa Mali" Malcolm Welbourne, it's Frosty's ice-cold, precise boom-thwacking that does most of the instigating. It's the tent pole bolstering the group's funky canvases, from the juke-joint slide of "Keep Happy" to the laid-back reggae stroll of "I'm the One." It even lends a touch of hip-hop flavor to the back end of "Keep Happy," as Welbourne raps out an order of hot-links, po-boys, and fried chicken, giving the already call-and-response "If I Ever Get Right" a palpable, hanky-waving Rebirth feel. But the cuts cribbed from an assortment of Pelican State players benefit from Frosty's assured timekeeping the most; Clifton Chenier's "Bon Temps Roulez," Buddy Guy's "Man of Many Words," and the Wild Magnolias' "Fire Water" are all raised above the level of standard-issue bayou funk into free-form jam packages wrapped in tight, persistent grooves. Beyond that, it's the steady heartbeat at the center of "Walk on Guilded Splinters," as Welbourne recasts Dr. John's early hit as a leisurely 10-minute voodoo epic. See what happens when you give the drummer some? (Saturday, Mar 18, Top of the Marc, 11pm)

*** 

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