Bayou Ballads and Banjos
Hurray for the Riff Raff is an interesting New Orleans based folk trio fronted by singer/songwriter Alynda Lee Segarra who ran away from home at age 17, hitching a ride with a friend to the West Coast and continuously roaming until she reached New Orleans, Louisiana. She and her fellow travelers would play on the streets for money, giving them ample practice time. You can feel her wanderer’s soul fighting with her desire to finally settle in the group’s latest release, Small Town Heroes.
The album starts off with the uptempo bluegrass tune “Blue Ridge Mountain.” No, it is not a cover of the Fleet Foxes’ song of the same name, but it is an uplifting mountain song about going through life filled with uncertainty. “Good Time Blues (An Outlaw’s Lament)” is beautifully written and wonderfully arranged and that’s all well and good, but the kick drum in this track is absolutely unbelievable. It packs so much power; every time it hits is like a wave of release. This ballad is followed by “End of the Line,” another upbeat country tune. It’s a good track, but the harmonica sounds like just about every other Bob Dylan-esque harmonica line, the music is all too familiar and the lyrics are not that interesting. Not to call it a boring song, but if the shoe fits…
“The New SF Bay Blues” follows with a grandiose simplicity, stripped down to singer and acoustic guitar. With just a tasteful amount of reverb on Segarra’s vocals, this track is intimate and stands as a strong reminder that, in a time where music is dominated by wubbing electronic noise and mouse clicks, the bare basics of a song are what make it truly marvelous. “No One Else” is a cool smokey-bar style blues song with piano adding a jazzy sort of swing to it. This track just oozes cool.
The album wraps up with several more incredible ’90s country-style songs, concluding on “Forever is Just a Day,” with violins’ harmonic dissonance droning along to Segarra’s booming voice — an obvious and smart conclusion to the album. If you enjoy bands fronted by impressive female vocalists, somewhat a scarcity (and in country music, it has always seemed like unique female vocals were a bit…lacking), you need to listen to this album.