What I’m Talkin About – Carlo Ditta
Everyone who knows New Orleans music of the modern era is aware of the brilliant contributions of Carlo Ditta as a record producer and owner of Orleans Records—home of one-of-a-kind recordings by Danny Barker, Coco Robicheaux, Ironing Board Sam, Guitar Slim Jr, Little Freddie King, the Original Pin Stripe Brass Band, Rockie Charles (“The President of The Blues”) and others too numerous to mention.
But a lotta people don’t know that Carlo started out as a guitarist and singer and then a songwriter who won a song-writing contest with a gospel number called “Pray” and invested the proceeds in recording the song with the great Mighty Sam McLain on the vocal. This opened up the door into the world of record production, and he stayed with it well into the 21st century when the record business began to tank and his successful formula for making little musical gems and marketing them to his target audience turned sour.
With a lot of time on his hands Carlo picked up his guitar and began playing the occasional show as a solo performer, singing songs of his own composition and adapting classic tunes from the New Orleans tradition to his singular approach, rethinking and reconfiguring songs like “Tell It Like it is,” Ernie K-Doe’s “Beating Like A Tom Tom,” “Go On Fool” by Smiley Lewis, and Deacon John’s recasting of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers To Cross,” all represented on this album.
In performance Carlo & the Trio—now featuring Rick Stelma’s accordian and drummer Anthony Donado and often augmented by saxophonist Steve Allen or either Smokey Greenwell doubling on tenor sax & harmonica—embraces and deconstructs other iconic New Orleans compositions like “Pass The Hatchet,” Eddie Bo’s “Hard Times,” and the Benny Spellman classic “Lipstick Traces” with little reference to the original arrangements or, sometimes, even to the intentions of the composer.
They also offer Carlo’s original compositions preserved on this album, like the extremely greasy title track that’s a paean and a carnal plea to an ugly woman, or the equally greasy “Walk That Walk.” His sparkling anthem “As The World Turns” doesn’t refer to the long-running soap opera of the same name but to a philosophical way of life passionately delivered. “Pretty Acres” is a nostalgic salute to the great Louis Prima and a way of life that no long exists in Louisiana, and “Try A Little Love” is a tasty piece of heartfelt advice that has a lot of emotional and real-life resonance.
What Carlo does is forge a personal response to the musical information he has received and long embedded in his mental world, stamp it with his own personality and deliver the result in a warm, resonant voice backed up by his strictly utilitarian guitar playing. If he needs something more spectacular in the guitar department, he calls on his old friend Billy Gregory, the veteran New Orleans guitar strangler, or slide guitarist Vic LaRocca to fill the bill.
A word should be said about the myriad contributions made to the success of this album by reedman Steve Allen, who adds his soprano, alto, tenor & baritone saxophones & flute to most of the proceedings in ways that are always precisely what is needed to make the music sound right. Chris Lacinak and Chewy “Thunderfoot” Black share the drum chair with Anthony Donado, and David Hyde takes care of most of the bass, spelled here and there by Vernon Rome, Earl Stanley, or either Robert Snow. Charlie Miller makes key appearances on trumpet on the Smiley Lewis number and flute on “Tell it Like It Is,” and other cameo roles are filled by David Rebeck’s accordion, Andrew Bernard on keyboards or baritone sax, and Ruby Moon’s backing vocal.
Not only does this collection offer a nice taste of Carlo Ditta and his music of today but there’s a great story behind it: Carlo was playing a little gig in downtown Covington one night a few years ago and found himself accosted by a female fan after the set. She wanted to know how she could get his album, but he was forced to explain that he didn’t have one yet. “Well, you should!”, she retorted with some ardor. Now he not only has the album but he ended up marrying the woman!
By John Sinclair
Amsterdam January 8, 2015
- What I’m Talkin About
- Go On Fool
- WAs the World Turns
- Beating Like a Tom Tom
- Pretty Acres
- Tell It Like It Is
- Try a Little Love
- I’m Leaving You
- Walk That Walk
- Many Rivers to Cross
Recorded deep down in Louisiana close to New Orleans way back up in the woods among the evergreens at Orleans Records
& On Cue Studios
All songs written by Carlo Ditta & published by Attid Music Co. ASCAP except as noted
“Go On Fool” written by Dave Bartholomew & Dorothy Ester, published by EMI UNART BMI
“Beating Like A Tom Tom” written by Ernie K-Do aka Ernest Kador Jr., published by K DO Music BMI
“Tell It Like It Is” written by George Davis & Lee Diamond, published by Arc Music/MJones/Olrap BMI
“I’m Leaving You” written by Floyd Huddleston, published by Popoosa Music ASCAP
“Many Rivers To Cross” written by Jimmy Cliff aka James Chambers, published by Universal Songs BMI
- Carlo Ditta vocals & guitar
- Chris Lacinak drums on 1, 4, 6, & 10; percussion on 4; Fender Rhodes on 10
- Chewy “Thunderfoot” Black drums on 3, 5 & 7
- Anthony Donado drums on 2, 8, & 9
- Vernon Rome bass on 1
- David Hyde bass on 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 10
- Earl Stanley bass on 8
- Robert Snow bass on 9
- Steve Allen baritone sax on 1 & 5; tenor sax on 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 & 10; alto sax on 5; flute on 1
- Charlie Miller trumpet & piano on 2; flute on 6
- Ruby Moon background vocal on 3
- David Rebeck accordion on 3
- Andrew Bernard Farfisa 345VIP on 4; baritone sax on 9
- Vic Larocca solo guitar on 5; slide guitar on 7
- Billy Gregory lead guitar on 8 & 10
- Rick Stelma Wurlitzer electric piano on 9
• Engineers: Carlo Ditta, Allen Poupart, Chris Lacinak • Edits on track 5 by Tim Stambaugh • Mastered by David Farrell
Photographs by Carlo Ditta in New Orleans on Decatur St & the Ninth Ward way before the storm
Package layout by Steve Winn
Dedicated to the memory of Cosimo Matassa
April 13, 1926 – September 11, 2014