Terrance Simien once recorded a spoken-word-and-music album, 2001’s Tribute Sessions, that paid homage to various Creole musicians. Here, he does another loving tribute to nearby Dockside Studio owned by Steve and Cezanne Nails. Lots of heavy Louisiana cats (Tab Benoit, Sonny Landreth, Dr. John) have recorded there, not to mention nationally known artists B.B. King, Taj Mahal and the late Levon Helm. Simien’s Dockside Sessions may very well be the first dedication of its kind to the studio.
On his ninth album, Simien continues his artistic vision of maintaining cultural roots while broadening out with more eclectic selections across the American music spectrum. The more contemporary “Time for Me to Dance” is a suitable opening track, given his joie de vivre onstage expression, while on the hard charging “In the Dog House” and the rollicking “It Don’t Pay to Cry,” trad riffs are fused into his own creations. Incidentally, the latter, translated as “C’est Pas la Peine Braillier,” is an old Creole expression meaning, “Hey, I got my troubles, too.”
Of the more eclectic selections, the souped-up, ska-thrusting rendition of Toots & the Maytals’ “Pressure Drop” is the party-down favorite and begs the question of why aren’t there more zydeco-reggae-ska fusions, since the genres are so akin to each other? There’s also a strong Bob Dylan current here, not only with three Dylan selections but also with producer George Receli, Dylan’s longtime drummer. Of these tracks, Simien’s impassioned vocals are at their best on “If Not for You,” a duet with Shannon McNally. The Grateful Dead’s “Franklin’s Tower” is another fun one, especially given Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s fiery guitar solos that should have been extended, considering the source. Unusual combinations indeed, yet at the same time, it wouldn’t be a true Simien experience without ’em.