Audio Mixer: Androlia Tokic.
Recording information: The Bomb Shelter, Nashville, Tennessee.
Photographers: Elena Ricci; Tamara Grayson.
New Orleans is a great place for roots music, but it has never been a major city for country music; when you have the best blues, R&B, and zydeco in the world in your backyard, forming a country band is a bit like going to a steakhouse and ordering pizza, something that may be tasty but isn't the house specialty. But the debut album from the Deslondes suggests these guys are just smart enough to know their adopted hometown has a powerful musical legacy of its own, and if an alt-country band was going to settle in the Crescent City and soak up what it has to offer, this is just what they could and should sound like. The Deslondes has a loose, easygoing feel that's a distant cousin of the lazy but potent beat of classic New Orleans R&B (and the piano work suggests someone has been listening to some Huey "Piano" Smith), while the production gives the performances a vibe that recalls a Sunday afternoon guitar pull on someone's back porch. The guitar work from Sam Doores and Riley Downing meshes beautifully, with a lonesome purr that's sweet and soulful, and the pedal steel work by John James Tourville roots these songs in a traditional C&W feel without robbing this band of its low-key personality (if a band has ever sounded more heartbroken and hung-over on record than these folks do on "Simple and True," no one has spun it in quite some time). And drummer Cameron Snyder and bassist Dan Cutler are a loosely tight rhythm section who might not sound like Louisiana, but they're clearly nowhere near Nashville. Add in the wobbly but heartfelt vocals and surprisingly strong harmonies and you get an engaging debut from a band that hits a graceful midpoint between The Basement Tapes and the Gourds, not to mention delivering one of 2015's more pleasant surprises. ~ Mark Deming