Original Album Release: “LUCKY DOG” by Big Easy Rick & N’Awlins
“Big Easy Rick” debuts new music for Mardi Gras! And what better time than Mardi Gras to release an album inspired by iconic New Orleans music and musicians? Veteran singer Rick Windhorst has channeled his love of NOLA music, food and revelry into “Lucky Dog,” a collection of seven original songs harkening back to the sounds of his childhood in the Irish Channel. Co-written by Emmy-winning, Grammy-nominated, NOLA area native Greg Barnhill (“Walkaway Joe”-Trisha Yearwood, “House of Love”-Amy Grant/Vince Gill, “Christmas in New York”- Backstreet Boys), these retro originals reflect the love that both have for the city and music that shaped their lives and careers. Barnhill enthuses, “Ricky’s voice embodies that classic New Orleans vibe, and it was great to collaborate with him on songs that celebrate a piece of musical history that’s so important to us. We got great players in the studio, some of whom toured with acts that inspired these songs. They immediately captured the sound we were looking for.” Windhorst adds, “We chose Rabadash Studio for their professionalism, top-notch equipment and the rooms’ sound quality. Also for the expertise of veteran engineer Marc Hewitt who’s known for his work at Sea-Saint and his Sound Services studio in New Orleans where he recorded a who’s who of this area’s most successful artists.”
The tracks on “Lucky Dog” conjure visions of everything from lazy days under moss-draped oaks (“New Orleans Sunday Afternoon”), and couples swaying to belly-rubbing tunes at a fais do-do (“Don’t You Know”) to the sights and sounds of parades and Jazz Fest (“Ain’t Been to the Fest,” “The Less There is for You”). Real-life Big Easy experiences are also memorialized (“Hugga Bugga Choo Choo Choo,” “Lucky Dog”). Windhorst delivers an homage to his favorite New Orleans music ambassador (Listen to the Doctor) to round out his personal tribute to the city and music that were formative to the larger-than-life, carefree persona he’s used to passionately entertain audiences for nearly 50 years.
“I feel sorry for people who’ve never felt that rush ‘the chosen’ get when we hear the sound of drums down the street letting us know the big parade is coming or the joyous abandon of letting loose in a second line,” says the singer who embodies his moniker of ‘Big’ and ‘Easy.’ “That pounding beat gets your whole body moving, and when all those horns join in, it lifts your soul to a place where one unique experience is shared. I wanted to capture that feel. Add a New Orleans boogie piano like you’d hear oozing from the doorway of a local bar, add a grooving bass and a raspy vocal singing to the saints and the sinners alike and that’s what ‘Lucky Dog’ sounds like.” I grew up on funky, soulful music and hope to pay tribute to the great mix of influences and musicians here,” explains Windhorst, who’s been performing regionally in a variety of bands since he was 15 and with his band Four Unplugged for the last 27 years.
Windhorst received much support during the album’s production, including from Ozone Music Education Foundation and Bleu Evans, local recording engineer turned producer to stars such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Stevie Wonder and Kansas. Evans encouraged Windhorst to realize his dream album that honors the Mardi Gras spirit NOLA natives celebrate all year. Windhorst, Evans and Barnhill recently came together during the Ozone Songwriter Festival, founded by Barnhill to support the foundation’s mission of providing music education and mentorship to songwriters and musicians. Evans, who is in the Grammy Hall of Fame for work on Clifton Chenier’s Zydeco album, “Bogalusa Boogie,” was presented Ozone’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his work with Louisiana artists at Studio in the Country, as well as attracting major acts to utilize the music industry here. During Evans’ tenure, his studio was involved in the production of over 64 Gold® and Platinum® albums. In his acceptance speech, Evans cited Windhorst’s project as a great example of Ozone’s value.
Barnhill adds, “The foundation’s education efforts are largely directed at students with the gifting of instruments and lessons, but artists of all ages, like Ricky, benefit by exposure at the festival, attending songwriting and producing workshops, and making connections. I’m excited to have co-written with Ricky and helped him through the process. This one project employed about two dozen local musicians and engineers at Rabadash Studios in Mandeville including recording and mastering engineer Marc Hewitt who has worked with a star-studded array of national and New Orleans based artists. That’s what we’re here to make happen.”
The album release was recently celebrated with a listening party held at St. Ann Wine Bar with friends, family and many of the album’s numerous studio musicians in attendance along with Barnhill; Grammy-winning record producer Bleu Evans; Rabadash Recording Studio owner and popular area pianoman , John Autin; Album Cover Artist, Pam Hendrix; notable NOLA musicians including Jim Odom of Louisiana LeRoux, Louisiana Restauranteur of the Year Pat Gallagher, parish dignitaries including Mike Cooper and Don Villere; former Louisiana Music Commissioner, Bernie Cyrus; Mike Seippel, 105 Cafe caterer, local media; and many more supporters of Windhorst and the local music scene.
“I couldn’t have made this kind of quality production without Greg’s writing collaboration, experience, and connections,” says Windhorst who joined Ozone’s board himself to further their mission. “I’ve dreamed of doing this project for decades, and Ozone really helped me achieve it. As thrilled as I am to put out an album, it’s just as exciting to share the resources Ozone offers so that my fellow musicians and young artists can have that same opportunity.”
“Lucky Dog” by Big Easy Rick & N’awlins is now on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services. For CDs and more info regarding Big Easy Rick, “Lucky Dog” or Ozone, contact [email protected] or 985-789-7069.