A co-founder of the Orleans Record label, guitarist Carlo Ditta has put together the first recording under his own name. Ditta produced the recording, one of his many talents, and handles the lead vocals. He started the project in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, writing half of the songs. The rest of the tunes are classic New Orleans tracks that speak to the legacy of Cosimo Matassa, as Ditta dedicates the album to the legendary producer. The black & white photographs on the gate-fold packaging were taken by Ditta long before the city was devastated by the storm.
Given the project developed over a number of years, the roster of contributing musicians is extensive. Chris Lacinak, Chewy “Thunderfoot” Black, and Anthony Donando are the drummers while Vernon Rome, Earl Stanley, Robert Snow, and David Hyde handling the bass guitar, with Hyde on seven cuts. Steve Allen plays a variety of saxophones, focusing on the tenor for six songs. Noted guitarist Billy Gregory, who once backed Professor Longhair, adds his melodic picking to “I’m Leaving You,” a ballad recorded by Louis Prima that was a favorite of Ditta’s father. A cover of Dave Bartholomew’s “Go On Fool” is elevated by Charlie Miller’s stellar trumpet and piano contributions.
Ditta utilizes a half sung-spoken vocal style that fits the laid-back feel on most of the tracks. He is joined by singer Ruby Moon on “As The World Turns,” offering a down-hearted world view that is tempered by David Rebeck’s bright accordion and Allen’s hard-blowing tenor efforts. “Pretty Acres” is another original that remembers Prima as the band coalesces behind Ditta’s request for a second line, which prompts invigorating interplay between the leader’s guitar and Allen’s overdubbed horn section.
The title track is a funky missive to a woman who leaves something to be desired in looks department, but that doesn’t slow the singer down, trading vocal exhortations with Allen’s vibrant flute and his own jagged guitar tones. Vic Larocca uses his slide guitar to add a swampy flavor to Ditta’s mid-tempo ode, “Try A little Love”. The band takes listeners deeper into the bayou on “Walk That Walk,” anchored by Andrew Bernard on baritone sax and the leader’s guitar licks borrowed from the Dale Hawkins classic, “Susie Q”.
Three covers are a mixed bag. Ernie K-Doe’s “Beating Like A Tom Tom,” which was recorded by eclectic singer Willy DeVille for his Ditta-produced tribute to New Orleans R&B, Victory Mixture, finds the leader’s dark voice accented by the light tones of Bernard’s Farfisa organ. Ditta strips the arrangement of Aaron Neville’s hit, “Tell It Like It Is,” down to the bare essentials, letting the horns play a soothing riff behind his subdued vocal. A similar approach falls short of the mark on “Many Rivers To Cross,” although we get another taste of Gregory’s sublime style.
Carlo Ditta definitely has a unique musical vision that encompasses different tones and textures without venturing way beyond the norm. There is much to appreciate here, especially for listeners looking for an escape from loud guitars and strident singers. By the end, you will probably be wishing that Ditta had included a few more tracks.
By Mark Thompson – Blue Blast Magazine