Recording information: CRC (Chicago); Number C Studio (Nola); The Egg Room (Jacksonville, FL); The Shed (Nola); Windmasrk Recording (Los Angeles).
The first collection of new studio music from the relentlessly inventive New Orleans funk-jam unit since 2012's Carnivale Electricos, Into the Deep arrives after a well-received trio of Mardi Gras-centric outings. As per usual, Galactic is joined by an all-star roster of guests, including Macy Gray, Mavis Staples, JJ Grey, Ryan Montbleau, David Shaw of the Revivalists, Maggie Koerner, Brushy One String, and Charm Taylor, and while they may have ostensibly left Fat Tuesday behind, they certainly haven't abandoned their penchant for second-line swagger, as evidenced by the parade route-ready, brass-and-drum-led opener "Sugar Doosie," which wastes little time getting the party started. More song-oriented than ever, Into the Deep does a nice job showcasing both the band and the guest vocalists. Florida-based Southern rock and soul specialist JJ Grey's bayou bluster is lent extra muscle by the thrum of deep, '70s funk that's being churned out behind him, Mavis Staples, who at the age of 76 can still make gospel sound sexy, lends her unmistakable pipes to the immaculately laid-back "Does It Really Make a Difference," and the slow-burn title track finds the husky-throated Macy Gray channeling Tina Turner and serving up an old-school blast of vintage soul that's as full-blooded and unabashedly nostalgic as it is 21st century radio-friendly. Throughout it all, co-founders, producers, and arrangers Ben Ellman and Robert Mercurio sonically map out a NOLA that's as vibrant and forward thinking as it is steeped in the region's rich culture, cementing the band's reputation (20 years in) as both innovators and stalwart defenders of tradition. ~ James Christopher Monger