Before leaving New Orleans this afternoon, I spent the morning strolling around the French Quarter doing very touristy things, like having breakfast at the Camellia Grill, grabbing beignets at Cafe du Monde, people watching in Jackson Square, and sitting on the bank of the Mississippi watching the boats go by.
No matter where I went, I was never out of earshot of music. Whether it was brass bands playing typical New Orleans fare or a Gypsy group or the silver-painted mime gesturing to “The Monkees” theme (go figure), as soon as I moved out of hearing range for one song, another one would take over.
The music that really grabbed me, however, came as I was approaching the intersection of Toulouse and Royal. I heard a haunting instrumental version of “House of the Rising Sun” on guitar and violin. As I approached, I saw that it was two women playing. The guitarist was seated, while the violinist stood about about four feet away and slightly behind. From “Sun” they went into The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” The guitarist was playing what had to be some kind of custom-made guitar. The outside was some black textured material, had a strange curve at the top of the body, and it was smaller than a standard guitar. I couldn’t see any kind of brand name, but maybe someone reading this with more guitar knowledge than I (which would be almost anyone) will know.
The duo had drawn a sizable crowd, but they didn’t seem to notice. Unlike most buskers I’d seen, these two didn’t really interact with the audience. In some strange way, their lack of gladhanding made the performance seem more intimate, as if we’d all just stumbling across the pair playing for themselves —albeit in the middle of a street.
They didn’t take a break so I never got a chance to talk to them or learn their names, but today’s $10 goes to the pair whose music gave me so much pleasure and gently ushered me out of a city I dearly love. I hope to see them and the Crescent City again soon.
May 6: The great musicians at the corner of Toulouse and Royal
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