Local sensation’s new record to spark old New Orleans soul

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Local sensation’s new record to spark old New Orleans soul

Ben Shooter, Contributing Reporter

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Local sensation The New Orleans Suspects will shake up the Louisiana music scene with the release of its newest album “Ouroboros” in October. 

The band boasts a “Mean” Willie Green on drums, Reggie Scanlan on bass, Jeff Watkins on saxophone, clarinet and harmonica, Jake Eckert on guitar and mandolin, and CR Gruver on keyboards and vocals. This record is not the band’s first but stands out particularly special.

“Really this is our first all-original studio record,” Gruver said. “This is us putting our foot forward saying this is who we are as a band, more than anything.”

The New Orleans Suspects has been a fixture of the New Orleans scene for several years now, and the band said the album is deeply reflective of the musical community. In fact, even the album’s title plays into this theme.

“[Ouroboros] kind of embodies New Orleans as a city,” Gruver said. “It continues to grow and change but always still stays New Orleans. As far as the band is concerned with that idea, we’re all musicians that were members of different bands. As some guys’ careers came to an end in those bands, New Orleans Suspects kind of recreated a career for them.”

Along with the core band members, the record features a number of guest musicians, all of whom currently reside or grew up in New Orleans.  Ian Smith, another respected local player, fills out the band’s horn section with his trumpet, and Michael Skinkus adds Latin and Cuban-influenced percussion. Col. Bruce Hampton, described by Gruver as a “fixture in the southern rock world,” and vocalist Tanya Shylock, a close friend of the band, also joined the group in the recording process. Interestingly, the voices of Gruver’s three-year-old daughter, Jasa, and Eckert’s four-year-old son, River, can be heard on the album as well, emphasizing the band’s focus on family.

The Suspects boast a wide range of instrumentation on the album, including slide guitar, a tight horn section, a 1970s style organ and front man CR Gruver’s electric kazoo. Their stylistic range is equally broad. The band fluidly transitions from Parliament-style funk to vintage jam to complex jazz, often times switching back and forth in the same song. Upon listening, one may wonder how the five-piece band recreates it all in a live setting.

“We cover most of the parts,” Gruver said. “We don’t have the full horn section but the sheer energy we have onstage makes up for anything we’re missing. We really have a high energy show and pull the audience into the show with us. We bring a party every night to every show.”

The album, set to release Oct. 14, will have an accompanying show Oct. 17 at the Maple Leaf Bar.

“We’re going to have both the percussionist Michael Skinkus and the trumpet player Ian Smith playing with us,” Gruver said. “We plan on doing every song on the record, really presenting the record live to people.”

The Suspects already have plans, however, for the future beyond “Ouroboros.” 

“We’re working on new songs for our next record that we’re going to be bringing out live over our fall tour,” Gruver said. “We actually started recording our next record.”

“Ouroboros” is stellar both production-wise and as a standout reflection of the city that the band calls home. “Get Back What You’ve Given” works as a solid opener with a memorable hook and a mesmerizing sax solo. “Magdalena” takes a classic sound with a refreshing spin by providing some of the catchiest horn work on the album. “Ouroboros” succeeds in capturing a soulful and energetic sound representative of the New Orleans scene.