"one of the few truly wild
records to come from the rock & roll
tradition in the 21st century"
* PLUS FULL-SCREEN VIDEO & BONUS AUDIO (Enhanced CD)
Papa Mali's debut is a rich gumbo of down home funk, dubbed out swamp grooves, and Southern fried soul, recorded over just five blistering days in his hometown of Austin, Texas. Futuristic, retrosonic... and nastier than a lard bucket full of armpits! (In addition to an hour of his super dynamite Austin-by-way-of-Shreveport soul, this Enhanced CD also includes a 10 minute b-movie style video for Guilded Splinters)
Personnel: Malcolm "Papa Mali" Welbourne (lead vocals and guitar), Barry "Frosty" Smith (drums & percussion), Courtney Audain (bass, udu, bones), Bevis Griffin (vocals), Claude McCan (keys), Paul "Buddha" Mills (percussion), and Tomas Ramirez (tenor sax)
Recommended side dish: Red beans, dirty rice, collards and Crystal hot sauce.
Click here to download a printable one-sheet for this release (in PDF format).
"Walk On Guilded Splinters"
‘‘ According to legend, Thunder Chicken is the moniker for a kind of fortified wine that helped Malcolm 'Papa Mali' Welbourne evolve, from his early years as a crazy music-freak kid with a six-string slung over his shoulder to the swamp-funk-hoodoo-slide-guitar-choogler he's become. Along with his smoking band, he concocts a back-alley brand of Louisiana parade sass that meets bluesy Austin, Texas grit in a gumbo of the deeply greasy variety; it becomes something joyfully lusty and intoxicating in its own right.
As a singer, Mali's dirty-ass slide axe struts in front of him and he's a deep-voiced soulful growler. But it's drummer Barry 'Frosty' Smith who whips the band into the tight, cracking, oily funk machine that can slay you on record as well as in a live setting. And that's what Thunder Chicken is, a beautiful dose of voodoo blues and raucous pumped up Southern funk and roll. Produced by the Dan Prothero, the true king of raw, Thunder Chicken is one of the few truly wild and unruly records to come from the rock & roll tradition in the 21st century.
There's a joint-poppin' nasty read of Clifton Chenier's Bon Ton Roulet, and a completely reinvented predatory version of Buddy Guy's swaggering Man of Many Words, with a killer meat-and-potatoes sax line by Ramirez and one of the filthiest basslines in recorded music history. In addition, Mali's cover of the Wild Magnolias' Fire Water takes the chant at the heart of the original and turns it into some kind of way-past-midnight hallucinatory processional. The hinge of this set, though, is the nearly ten-minute read of Dr. John's classic Walk on Gilded Splinters. The tune is a tranced-out, stoned, lonesome unholy blues with a Fender Rhodes and Mali's droning electric guitar punctuated ominously by the whip-crack snare of Smith. His vocal and Griffin's spooky wail in the background take the listener on a labyrinthine journey into the heart of darkness. Smith and Welbourne's Keep Happy is a cut-time guttural funk blues with lots of slide-guitar power chords, whomping snare, and maniacal distortion -- it feels like Buddy Guy fronting the Rolling Stones on Midnight Rambler.
The rest of the Welbourne originals stick close to the vein, the vein that is murky and unruly, full of surprises and killer riffs and hooks that could seduce a virtual street-full of revelers. Cottonfields and Bayous makes a case for this band being a thoroughly modern construct. The Instagators may deeply honor their musical heritage, but they're far from stuck in it. This feedback and slow strolling, freak-out hymn to the backwaters could only have been made in the 21st century with its hypnotic, twisted basslines that bust like a geyser from the speakers and reverb-drenched guitars behind the whispering keys and backbeat-driven drums. This record is timeless, sexy, and dangerous in its roots-man groove." — allmusic.com
‘‘ one of the best New Orleans funk & swamp-rock records in recent memory" — Scott Jordan, New Orleans Gambit
‘‘ Mali and company navigate the idiosyncrasies of the grooves like natives, but still conjure a spirit all their own, as evidenced by the seven originals that round out the program and slide in comfortably alongside the Louisiana classics" — Keith Spera, New Orleans Times-Picayne
‘‘ As in most things relating to the bayou beat, the drums are critical and the indominable Barry "Frosty" Smith keeps the foundation flexible with elastic energy that polyrhythmically pushes and pulls the music ever onward... Welbourne's swamp trance vocals and the uniformly excellent musicianship of all involved create a strong and successful debut for an act with admirable experience and unlimited potential" — Michael Point, Austin American Statesman
‘‘ As steeped in Mardi Gras parade rhythms as Papa Mali & the Instagators have always been, it's hardly a surprise that the real lead instrument on Thunder Chicken is drummer "Frosty" Smith's whipcrack snare. With all due respect to "Papa Mali" Malcolm Welbourne, it's Frosty's ice-cold, precise boom-thwacking that does most of the instigating. It's the tent pole bolstering the group's funky canvases, from the juke-joint slide of Keep Happy to the laid-back reggae stroll of I'm the One. It even lends a touch of hip-hop flavor to the back end of Keep Happy, as Welbourne raps out an order of hot-links, po-boys, and fried chicken, giving the already call-and-response If I Ever Get Right a palpable, hanky-waving Rebirth feel. But the cuts cribbed from an assortment of Pelican State players benefit from Frosty's assured timekeeping the most; Clifton Chenier's Bon Temps Roulet, Buddy Guy's Man of Many Words, and the Wild Magnolias' Fire Water are all raised above the level of standard-issue bayou funk into free-form jam packages wrapped in tight, persistent grooves. Beyond that, it's the steady heartbeat at the center of Walk on Guilded Splinters, as Welbourne recasts Dr. John's early hit as a leisurely 10-minute voodoo epic. See what happens when you give the drummer some?" — Christopher Gray, Austin Chronicle
‘‘ Who are these dudes? Havent heard swamp music this good since Tony Joe White. Papa definitely has Spanish moss on his antlers" — Lee Froelich, Playboy Magazine
‘‘ Propelled by the insistent second-line flavor of seasoned funk/R&B drummer Barry "Frosty" Smith, Papa Mali and the Instagators conjure up a potent gris-gris bag of tribal rhythms and true New Orleans-style funk, peppered with judicious touches of slide guitar and more than a bit of bayou joie de vivre. The vocals are delivered with a soulful swagger, almost as if Jimi Hendrix had been raised in the swamps on a steady diet of James Brown, the Meters and scratchy Delta blues. The Instagators cover a lot of familiar territory, but they do so with a greasy authority, touching on key New Orleans classics with in-the-pocket instinct. A raucous, insinuating debut" — New Orleans Gambit Weekly
‘‘ laced with the kind of New Orleans groove that would make Dr. John proud" — Jay Mazza, The Louisiana Weekly
‘‘ Fog City is an eminently cool record label with its penchant for expanded-media CDs and utterly cool taste in artists. Papa Mali's offering should do the label proud. Thunder Chicken is a gem" — Thomas Knapp, The Lafayette Daily Advertiser
‘‘ a powerful concoction of lowdown Texas swamp blues and New Orleans second line funk" — Tom Speed, An Honest Tune magazine
‘‘ Incredible album! I was in the record business for over ten years, and have done public radio over twelve years. This CD impressed me more than any in recent history. Thanks!" — postcard from Chris, a fan in Texas