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N’awlin’s legendary bluesman Bryan Lee performs this Friday
Written By: Tish Michel
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 N’awlin’s legendary bluesman Bryan Lee performs this Friday
Brenda Golden & Tish Michel met with Sydney, a long time supporter and promoter for New Orleans musicians, at the Jay Hoad Band show at Bethany Blues in Lewes, Del.
 N’awlin’s legendary bluesman Bryan Lee performs this Friday
New Orlean’s Blues legend Bryan Lee will perform Friday, September 3, at Bethany Blues in Lewes, Del.
    Bryan Lee is a bona fide New Orleans blues guitar hero and longtime staple on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Last year Bryan gave his 25th Jazz Fest performance and Quint Davis, originator and Executive Director of Jazz Fest, referred to Bryan as  the New Orleans Blues Institution. I will never forget a moment of that amazing show and enjoyed the special treat of being invited to the band trailer after the show. If Bryan’s not on tour when I visit New Orleans, he is the first and last person I see while visiting the Big Easy for the past 25 years.
    Bryan is a natural born houserocker with a whole lot of soul that he brings to the bandstand night after night. Coming off a highly successful whirlwind tour with Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s blues review, Bryan is primed and ready to unleash his own intensely passionate brand of blues power on this tour. The Blues Foundation  nominated Bryan’s first post storm album entitled "Katrina Was Her Name" for Contemporary Blues Album of the Year two years ago. Bryan has just released his thirteenth album entitled “My Lady Don’t Love My Lady” which includes a track with another blues legend, Buddy Guy. Come tonight and meet Bryan’s wife and his six string Lady and find out what the album is all about as you hear one of the best and hottest blues bands.
    Yes indeed, my music loving friends, come bring your dancing shoes to Bethany Blues in Lewis this Friday and hear Bryan, the Braille Blues Daddy, and his band lay down a N’awlin’s flavored second line groove. Allow me to quote a few other bluesmen: “One day too, Bryan, you’ll be a living legend.” - Muddy Waters; “one of the BEST bluesmen I have EVER HEARD.” - Eric Clapton. Bryan truly is a legend in his own time; don’t miss this rare opportunity to see him and his awesome band starting at 9 tonight. You’ll be very glad you took the short trip up Route 1 to Lewis.

New Orleans and Jazz Fest five years after Katrina

    I went to hear Opposite Directions on Aug. 28 ’05 and had a chat with Darin Engh about the up coming hurricane named Katrina.  Darin knew how much I love New Orleans and said, “Tish, this time tomorrow you can kiss your city goodbye.” These words stung and all the next day, my birthday, I said silent prayers for the city and my friends who lived there.  My prayers were answered that day as once again the Big Easy dodged the eye of a hurricane. However, on 8/30 while New Orleans residents were breathing a sigh of relief, the levees breached and all hell broke loose. Before it was all over, 80 percent of the city was under water, 1800 were dead, 200,000 homes were damaged or completely destroyed and the city suffered $135 billion in losses.
    Rockin’ Jake and his New Orleans band stayed at my place over Labor Day weekend ’05 as they had a gig at Coins. Michelle and Jack Schachter turned the gig into the first Katrina benefit in O C. It was quite a success and really helped to raise the spirits of Jake and his band mates. John LaMere auctioned off Jake’s last band T shirt for $500; Jim Mathias took the boys to breakfast the next morning before they went to their next gig and Jim and other members of the O. C. fire department headed to New Orleans to help victims. I held a handful of benefits for Tipitina Foundation and Musicians Clinic in New Orleans and made the commitment to volunteer with the Jazz & Heritage Foundation each year during Jazz Fest as well as write about life in New Orleans.
    Katrina first hit land at Plaquemines Parish, La., which is about an hour south of New Orleans. While first hit, this Parish is the last on the list for rebuilding and is still totally devastated in many areas. There were 15,000 residents of Plaquemines Parish before the storm and now there are only 3,500 residents.  After five long years there are still no schools or courts in this county of Louisiana and 700 families still live in FEMA trailers or mobile homes. Their levee system is at best still five years behind in restoration and the BP oil spill has closed its marinas. Only a few churches have reopened and The Black Velvet Oyster Bar is the only restaurant in the entire Parish.
    Recently, I’ve watched CNN, Anderson Cooper’s 360, CBS and read the Times Picayune the past few weeks as we hit the 5th anniversary of Katrina. Bruce Nolan wrote a moving article for the Times Picayune on 8/15 stating how this time of year since the big storm, everyone fills their pantries with can goods just in case, and the freezers are just about empty for the same reason. “Outdoors, a fresh propane tank is under the grill to fuel days of blackout cooking. The evacuation ‘go-list’ is drawn up – what goes in the car: what gets waterproofed and left behind; what stays unprotected and left to fate. It is August: The insurance is in order; the computer backed-up; the video household inventory safely stashed out of state. Come August and September, we are like mugging victims conditioned to measure the pools of darkness between streetlights”  Nolan goes on to say, “Five years after the most terrible event in its nearly 300-year history, metro New Orleans is, physically and psychologically, like a patient recovering from a whole-body burn. The first months after the trauma were spent nearly helpless, hospitalized, every ounce of energy devoted to mere survival while the world outside whirled along on its accustomed course. Friends and good Samaritans showered food, money, willing hands. Then followed months of painful private rehab, marked by slow progress and bitter setbacks: grueling negotiations with insurance companies, encounters with crooked or overbooked contractors, the hellish Inquisition that was the Road Home program. Half a decade later around New Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, ugly scar tissue remains plainly visible in the form of vacant lots, empty houses and the occasional rescue-team graffiti or dirty waterline.”
    Yes, life is hard in Louisiana since the big storm and the deep recession and now the oil spill has added further salt to the wounds. Unemployment and crime have been huge problems for the state and New Orleans has become the murder capital of our nation.
    Katrina brought near death to New Orleans, a major city in the U. S. Are we prepared for the next big hurricane? According to CPS, a recent pool showed that 59 percent believed we were NOT prepared and this worries me as an ocean front home owner in our wonderful city by the sea. 
    Much of New Orleans is rebuilt and the resilience of its people is remarkable.  However, there are still many areas where little has been done. In the Lower Ninth Ward, three fourths of the 5,500 homes have not been rebuilt and 125,000 folks continue to live in exile. There are still 1,000 families in FEMA trailers even though the city banned the trailers for health reasons several years ago. 
    Every year since Katrina, I’ve written about Charmaine Neville, daughter of Charles Neville of the famous Neville Brothers.  Charmaine has told me how off her earnings are from gigs in the Big Easy. Sweet Home New Orleans annual report dated Aug. 26 ‘10 reports earnings from music are down 43% percent from prekatrina levels. I’m so delighted to report that life for my friend Charmaine Neville is certainly improving. This past Jazz Fest I visited Charmaine at the “soft opening” of her new club called Desserts First on N. Charters. Charmaine had so many famous musicians including her family members share their musical talents at her unofficial opening.  It’s just wonderful to see goods things come her way after so many years of struggling to rebuild her home in the 9th Ward. Charmaine did much of the work in her new club herself and provided much of the art work. Many of her music awards are proudly displayed in the ladies room, of all places. Yes, Charmaine is a most courageous and resilient person with a great sense of humor.
    As always, Jazz Fest was great this year and I was delighted to share part of it with Brenda Golden, Lauren Glick and some other O. C. friends. However, I made my reservations late and had to move 4 times in 10 days and couldn’t find any place to stay for the last three days of the Fest. I plan to finalize my booking for Jazz Fest in October so I can stay my usual full two weeks and volunteer for the sixth year in a row with the Jazz and Heritage Foundation. It’s fun and helps support the best fest in the world. Jazz Fest needs good volunteers so give it some thought and plan a trip to N’awlins and you’ll be so glad you did.
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