Record producers and professional recording studios are very important. Music is an experience, a communion between artists and listeners. To capture the musical magic to a solid artifact is important, and to do it in a way that is real and moving is difficult. With the rise of modern technology that allows anyone to record in their homes regardless of the results and the devaluing of recorded music through streaming services, recording studios are dying and producers are scrambling for work. New Orlean’s native son, Carlo Ditta is one of the producers with ingenuity who has been able to adjust and carry on. A talented songwriter and producer with style and aesthetic, Ditta has parlayed his decades of producing and songwriting into a moving and affecting solo career. His second solo outing in the last 4 years, Hungry for Love, is a vital and exciting expression of love, loss, and mysticism through his unique New Orleans lens.
New Orleans music has many flavors and textures. There is the syncopated second line; the boogieing stroll exemplified by Professor Longhair; the rocking accordions and washboards of Zydeco; and, the deep pocket Funk made modern by bands like Galactic. The NOLA music Carlo uses to interpret his thoughts and feelings on Hungry is the raw ragged R&B indicative of Slim Harpo or James Booker. Ditta and company (see the musician list below) have a visceral and up-front sound. There is the sound of a room in these recordings, nothing is disembodied or isolated. The mixing of this record is essential. Greasy horn fills, jagged guitar, burbling keys, and ruminating drums fill the sonic landscape in places that one doesn’t expect. The production makes the excellent performances that much more interesting and compelling.
This record is diverse and at 10 songs and 35 minutes the variety makes for an engaging ride. Funky come-ons like the title track, “La MuChaCha Cha Cha” and “Pass the Hatchet” slink along with a junk yard stroll. The 50’s kitsch of “A Gypsy Woman Told Me” has a killer keyboard that feels like a cross between the British Invasion and the Texas twisting of Augie Meyers. More introspective are the deep cult classic cover of “Agnes English” and the mournful “I’m Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail.” It’s not clear that the world needed another cover of “The House of the Rising Son” but Ditto rips into the worn-out chestnut with lively gusto.
Carlo Ditta is not really a singer. He is more a vocalist with a ragged cracked delivery that is all Captain Beefheart. This technique is especially effective on the more jive spoken tracks like “La MuChaCha” and “Hatchet.” For the softer songs Ditta takes a low spoken tact a la Leonard Cohen or Lou Reed. The vocals are distinct and at times grating while highly affecting. But, they are never sweet, or smooth, or silky. The raw R&B power of the music and production fit Ditta’s howling and wailing very well.
Orleans Records, the label that released Hungry for Love, is Carlo’s business. Ditta started Orleans to record the often forgotten artists of Louisiana such as Little Freddie King, the Original Pinstripe Brass Band, and Rockie Charles among others. Ditta and his crew are keeping a strain of Louisiana music alive, R&B that is dirtied by the swamp, made rough by the fields and polished, only a little bit, in the city. Hungry for Love is a great introduction to this music and a clear musical statement by a sensitive and idiosyncratic artist.
Carlo Ditta – guitar and vocals; Anthony Donado – drums; Chewy “Thunderfoot” Black – drums; Earl “Stereo” Stanley – bass, maracas; David Hyde – bass; Rick Stelma – wurlitzer, organ; Jerry Jumonville – saxophone, horn arrangements; Andrew Bernard – saxophones, arrangements, wurlitzer; Johnny Peninno – saxophone; Angelamia Bachemin – congas; Dave Easley – pedal steel; Mark Trentacosta – guitar; Trea Swindell – background vocals; Deanna Bernard – background vocals; Freddy Staehle – percussion