Louisiana Legends

Considering their New Orleans environs, it's only natural that Billie and DeDe Pierce's music sounded like a rolling blend of blues, R&B, zydeco and Dixieland jazz. They performed in Louisiana dancehalls throughout their adult lives, capping their careers with a 1960s tenure in the Preservation Hall Jazz band. The newly reissued Gulf Coast Blues, featuring 12 tracks recorded in 1959, also reflects a folk influence.

The traditional "Panama Rag" is one of three bonus tracks featuring Billie playing solo, followed by her own amusingly euphemistic "In the Racket".

The Pierces present a sassier interpretation of Charles Davenport's "Mama Don't Allow" (RealAudio excerpt) than Doc Watson (one of many folk and bluegrass artists to record the tune), who stepped up the tempo and seemed to slyly poke fun at "Mama's" strict rules. On the timeless folk chestnut "St. James Infirmary," DeDe Pierce's somewhat restrained trumpet accompaniment behind his wife's measured piano playing and bluesy vocal (clearly influenced by her one-time employer Bessie Smith) enhances the song's funereal quality. Conversely, the way DeDe's gleeful-sounding trumpet trades lines with singer Lucius Bridges helps spark the normally sprawling folk saga "John Henry" (RealAudio excerpt) into an upbeat anthem.

The most robust number on Gulf Coast Blues is by far the opening "Eh La Bas" (RealAudio excerpt), sung by DeDe in a growling style that surely would have pleased Louis Armstrong. A swinging ode to the pleasures of food, drink and friends, it is — like the remainder of this smartly paced album — an engaging reminder of life's simpler joys.