Louisiana has always prided itself on its cultural gumbo. Its historical mixture of French, Spanish, African, and Italian combined with its connection to America give it a unique sensibility to say the least. Louisiana and New Orleans provides our country with a deep cultural well.
Music has, of course, been one of Louisiana's most beloved contributions. One can argue (and perhaps win the argument) that New Orleans is the home of rock and roll. Certainly, the state's rhythmic vibes have influenced jazz, rock, and funk in significant ways.
Givers, a young Louisiana band with roots in Lafayette and New Orleans, turns Louisiana's world gumbo around and looks at things from an outside in perspective. Rather than trying to keep true to any one specific Louisiana musical tradition such as cajun or funk, In Light, the band's debut adopts a world music sound and then translates it to their home state.
The seeds of Givers began when lead singer/guitarist Taylor Guarisco and lead singer/percussionist Tiffany Lamson met at the University of New Orleans and soon found a common interest in music. When Hurricane Katrina forced them out of the Crescent City, they headed back to their home town of Lafayette and the band started to take shape.
Although New Orleans gets its rightful kudos as an incredible music center, Lafayette is no slouch. The city and surrounding area are known for cajun music and Swamp Pop. Local heroes include amazing artists like the late Bobby Charles as well as Michael Doucet, CC Adcock, and Steve Riley. Anyone who happened to catch the cajun Mardi Gras episode in Treme's second season can see that western Louisiana is its own world beyond New Orleans.
In Light fuses it all together creating a blend that strongly echoes the African pop rhythms of Paul Simon's Graceland. "Up Up Up" kicks the album off with harmonizing chants, creative percussion, sparkling guitars, and the crackling pops of snare drums. The uplifting spirit of opening track continues on several others tracks ("Saw You First" "Ripe" "Ceiling Of Plankton") that flesh out the first half of the album.
Givers aren't limited to Afro-pop sounds as they infuse New Orleans rhythms on "In My Eyes" and have a deconstructed fuzz-guitar approach on "Noche Nada". The soaring beauty of Lamson's singing takes centerstage on "Atlantic" displaying the power of having two such distinct voices within a band.
The album ends with two epic tracks. The extended, almost live sounding "Go Out At Night" stretches over 7 minutes with push and pull tempo changes. As In Light ends with the shimmering indie pop of "Words", the band has come full circle combining its rooted approach to a throughly modern sound.
On In Light Givers demonstrate that there is more than one way to keep culture alive. Although it is valid to preseve culture by adhering to form, it is equally important when culture is preserved by fusing it with the present so that it can be reborn to live anew.
Givers show great promise on In Light. By combining world music with Lousiana music through an indie sensibility, they have provided another way to keep Louisiana alive and share it with the world.
- Jim Markel
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