Songs in the Key of Funk is the group’s sixth release and besides returning the band to its New Orleans roots, it also features the group’s first music video, “Poke Chop.” If you can imagine guest artist Lizzo as the queen of Krewe de Vieux, then is the video for you, especially when Big Sam starts chanting “Show me what you got for a poke chop.”
The album recalls disco-era songs like Car Wash and The Hustle and groups like The Sugarhill Gang and even a smidge of (dare I say it) Al Jarreau. The keyboards and horns are straight out of the 70s, but do not think for a minute that the songs sound stale. Big Sam managed to find that sweet spot artists like Prince and The Dap-Kings inhabit, recreating mid-’60s to mid-’70s funk using today’s immersive style. In New Orleans, where musical talent is as common as Catholic churches, Big Sam’s band members are well above average Ninth Ward sit-ins. “Particularly during Jazz Fest,” says Big Sam, “we all get to play with a bunch of different artists around that time because so many different bands are in town and you hook up so many different all-star groups so that’s when I really get to dig in and play with other people.”
Arguably, the group is best known for their live shows. Big Sam proudly describes the fans as ranging from: “a five-year old to a hundred-year-old, you know, black, white, Hispanics, Asians, it don’t matter. We appeal to all, you know…everyone comes out and has a blast every time. Some shows, if we’re doing a performing arts theatre, even if it’s people that never heard of you before. They just come up to you, they might have a season ticket or something, and they’re like a bunch of seventy-year old’s in the audience and you going to change the tour? I’m like, ‘Nope.’ Those seventy-year old’s, they were young at one point, they came up with a lot of those bands, they want to have fun, too. They don’t want to sit there and listen to some slow boring music drinking some wine. No, they want to come out and have fun, too, you know I do a song called Funky Donkey and there was this ninety-year old black woman who got up and she shook her ass on Funky Donkey. She said, ‘Oh my god I haven’t shook my ass like that in a long time.’ We cater to all so we don’t want to hear any excuses about anyone not wanting to have fun.”
Ultimately, it all comes down to just how much you want to be entertained. Do you want to be rocked by a group of musicians that cut their teeth entertaining on the streets of New Orleans? Can you handle it? Check out Big Sam’s Funky Nation Friday night and find out.