|New Orleans has long been considered the birthplace of American music as it was on her streets that a fusion of world influences were cooked up in a great gumbo to create the essence of modern jazz and blues. Texas-born-and-bred singer Laura Tate felt the influence of that Crescent City music after her father took all the family to hear the late great Pete Fountain. For her sixth album, Smokey Tango, Tate and her co-producer and music director, Grammy nominated musician and songwriter Terry Wilson, dug deeper into that influence and recorded a dozen new tracks of southern soul, jazzy blues, and smooth roots.
The collection includes songs from Allen Toussaint, The Neville Brothers, Mojo Monkeys, Percy Sledge, and writers, who also felt the influence of the Bayou and the Gulf Coast, such as Andy Fairweather Low, Stephen Bruton, Danny Everitt. Also included are new compositions from Wilson written for the project, and a bonus remake of a British Rock Classic. Wilson’s chief co-conspirators – Teresa James and Billy Watts – lent their talents to the sessions along with drummer Richard Millsap, Jeff Paris on keys and the horn section of Paulie Cerra and Darrell Leonard with Wilson’s daughter Lucy added backing vocals, all in all making this a real family affair.
The slow burning “Yellow Moon” opens the set by staying true to the original version from the Grammy winning Neville Brothers’ album of the same name that incorporated Haitian voodoo rhythms with NOLA soul. The snappy travelogue boogaloo “About To Get Gone,” follows before the swinging torch song title track, “Smokey Tango,” turns the bar room into a ballroom. Spice is added to “I Heard A Rumor,” from Texas songwriter Danny Everitt turning the love song into a savory rhumba. Tate sinks deep into the tender Ballad “Against My Will,” testifying to the power of love. She and the fellas then deliver authentic Basin Street Blues on “Champagne Melody,” with splendid horn arrangements by Leonard.
According to legend back in the thick, fog-covered swamplands is where you’ll find the true beauty of Louisiana and even a monster or two including the legendary beast “Rougarou.” Wilson and Tate penned a swamp rock anthem in tribute to this mythical creature as an album highlight. Tate then flips the gender to have a little fun with the R&B classic form Toussaint “A Certain Guy,” (Gal) staying true to the 1961 Ernie K-Doe version. Deep Purple turned the story of a mishap at Montreux Jazz fest “Smoke On The Water,” into a guitar Hero anthem. However, Tate and company transform the tune entirely recounting the tale as a bayou boogie with a loping beat, greasy B3 and hot horn jabs.
Tate pays tribute to The Louisiana Music Hall Of Famer Percy Sledge by faithfully covering his 1966 hit “It Tears Me Up,” with heart and soul. Wilson and Northern California singer-songwriter Gregory Sutton wrote Tate an easy-going swamp pop tune “School Boy Love,” for the album and closes with a sneaky second line version of another Danny Everitt tune “Lovers Game.”
By focusing on the subtleties and nuances of the New Orleans influence on popular music Laura Tate and company have made the Smokey Tango collection an enticing dish to relish for years to come.
Rick J Bowen
Laura Tate, one of four daughters of a Southern beauty and an opera singer father, grew up in Dallas, singing in front of audiences from the age of nine. While majoring in voice at the University of North Texas, she had the chance to tour with a theater repertory company and has worked as an actor and singer ever since. After training at the Herbert Berghoff Studio School of Acting and the Stella Alder School of Acting in New York, she performed off-Broadway and in other NYC productions as well as theaters in Los Angeles, Nashville, and Dallas and on musical touring companies.
In Los Angeles, Laura’s career turned first toward television with appearances in programs and series on every major network, HBO, and several cable channels. At the same time, what began as a gig in on-set craft services blossomed into a new career directing music videos, documentaries, and commercials. Working on music videos across the country, Laura assisted a wide variety of musicians including Phil Collins, Gloria Estefan, MegaDeath, and Cheap Trick. One of her documentaries, “Held In Trust,” that she directed, was narrated by Ossie Davis and Colin Powell, and garnered national acclaim, receiving the PBS Golden Apple for Education and induction into the Smithsonian Institute Film Archives. Laura Tate is a member of the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (SAG/AFTRA) and Actors Equity Association.
Ms. Tate has recorded six albums over the last nine years. The debut live album, Live From El Paso, released in 2020, remained at number one on the Roots Music Report’s Jazzy Blues chart for over six months and was also nominated as the Independent Blues Awards’ Best Live Concert album, with the album’s track “I Need A Man” nominated for Best R&B Soul Song. She has released more than 30 music videos of her songs.
Today Laura lives in El Paso, a unique and vibrant community at the edge of Texas, New Mexico, and the state of Chihuahua. Well-known for her volunteer work for local women’s shelters, Alzheimer’s Association, Junior League, and many social-justice causes, Laura received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. Returning to college as an adult, she finished her bachelor’s degree and master’s degrees in theater at the University of Texas-El Paso.