Crescent City Nouveau

The rich musical traditions of New Orleans — funk, R&B, Dixieland jazz — are rightfully daunting, as are many of the city's heralded pioneers, a list that begins with such legends as Professor Longhair, Dr. John, the Meters and the city's celebrated brass bands. It takes guts for a group of six young men to rise up out of the city's long shadows of legacy to aggressively update the sound while remaining faithful to its heritage. But Galactic is turning Crescent City into "Century City" (RealAudio excerpt) with strong chops, an innate sense of groove and a group dynamic as supple as it is provocative.

Galactic's new gumbo is experimental at times, but there's the feeling that this group learned the rules before they broke them, veering into neo-psychedelic passages ("As Big as Your Face" [RealAudio excerpt]) or free-jazz breakdowns ("Two Clowns" [RealAudio excerpt]). Purists might cry foul, but it's hard to argue with Theryl de Clouet's sultry, soulful vocals, Rich Vogel's meaty keyboards and a rhythm section tighter than an old pair of jeans. Late for the future? Man, Galactic seem right on time.