It’s fitting you might have caught a glimpse of Alexis Marceaux on Treme, HBO’s pantheon to New Orleans musicians. The soulful young artist is a lifelong New Orleanian, with credentials that best that of the cast. Her father is a local musician, and Alexis not only grew up surrounded by artists via rehearsals and sessions in the house; she also attended New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (alumni include Harry Connick Jr. and Wynton Marsalis), and sang in the St Bernard Parish Choir. Now, the 22-year old is releasing her second album, Orange Moon on August 23, 2011. Under the tutelage of Polyphonic Spree’s Rick Nelson and producer Sam Craft, Alexis drew an all-star cast, 25 of NOLA’s finest musicians of every genre, for an album that is big and lush -- yet finessed with restraint and space.
This is the second album for Alexis, who also keeps a spot as a touring musician and vocalist with Susan Cowsill, playing guitar, piano and harmonica, and is part of the local indie-rock band Glasgow. She released Dandelion in 09, and its songs were picked up by various television shows, but with Orange Moon, she’s elevated from a singer/songwriter -- to an artist that pulls more wholly from her city and life experiences. “I was really green, I had just started writing songs at age 13, and recorded the first album at the age of 18. The material was very song-writerly and folky, before I began to turn to metaphor,” says Alexis. “With that, the instrumentation naturally progressed and got more a bit more complicated.”
She makes that clear with the cinematic title track, a testimony to her friend Leila Foret’s battle with cancer. Alexis’ richly expressive and classically trained alto soars and dips with a brass section featuring Bonerama's Craig Klein, Big Sam's Funky Nation's Sam Williams, and a host of other New Orleans horns, making it one part jazz, one part funk and indie rock. The brooding storm of disquiet that the combined textures create, parallel not only Leila’s fight to overcome her illness, but also the battle New Orleans waged to recover from the perils of Katrina.
Alexis' family had long been ensconced in St Bernard Parish and lost everything in the floodwaters, sending Alexis further afield to SLU for vocal studies. Not long after she came back, St. Bernard's and many other parishes' prolific fisheries were crippled as oil from the 2010 spill washed ashore. The tale in “Wishing Well” is told from that heartbreaking perspective, but from the point of view of Louisiana’s state bird, the Pelican.
"I just want to spread my wings and sing like a songbird sings, but suddenly I'm overcome with fear,” the Cajun descendant sings before caustically biting into, “Those suckers will be lucky if I ever come back.” The song's message is translated into an indie-rock song, only slightly disguising its Cajun undertone complete with frottoir (Cajun washboard) by Russ Broussard (Terrance Simien, Zachery Richard and basically every major Cajun/Zydeco band of the 80's/90s). The last 60 seconds or so of the song features an anthemic chorus made up of a sizable chunk of the New Orleans music establishment (including Paul Sanchez, Susan Cowsill, and about a dozen others), banded together like an angered and militant crowd.
On “Fox,” a song that would fit snugly into a Decemberists album, she sings of the dangers of making hasty generalizations in an Aesop-meets-Orwell parable of clandestine love with a poppy guitar and whistles before swirling into a frenzy.
In addition to shows in the New Orleans area, including The House of Blues: Parish, The Howlin’ Wolf: Southshore & Northshore and multiple French Quarter clubs, including a memorable performance at the 2010 Jazz & Heritage Festival. Alexis will be touring with her band in late August and beyond.SEE Video Here for "Brains" and "Leila and the Orange Moon."
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