Larry Garner, Friday’s second act at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival’s popular Blues Tent, can be counted on to deliver an authentically bluesy, often funny, entertaining show. Junk-joint blues, searing blues balladry, a little bit of soul and even rap fill his repertoire.
A singer, guitarist, a gifted songwriter and natural storyteller who’s based in Baton Rouge, Garner tours internationally. He’s a prime example of living blues in Louisiana.
Garner and his five-piece band opened with the driving, stomping “She’s the Boss.”
“Make no mistake about it,” he said after the song, speaking of how lucky any young man is who has a lovely girlfriend who’ll hold his hand in public and actually like his parents.
A feel-good groove drove Garner’s next selection, a song of consolation and advice for the brokenhearted. In the midst of “The Road of Life,” Garner gave another of his spoken-word performances. Anyone who’s lost at love should take a cold showed, drink a lot and finally pledge his unconditional self-love to himself or herself.
“I want you to grab that broken heart and pull it out!” Garner commanded. “Don’t look back! That’s the key.”
Telling another of his to the point, short stories, Garner said a hippie girl he met at his newly integrated high school in the 1970s inspired his next song. A psychedelic-funk piece, it featured lots of jamming.
Meeting the hippie girl and her peers transformed Garner and his musical tastes, he recalled. If not for the hippie children, he said, he’d never have heard Grand Funk Railroad, Carlos Santana, The James Gang or Spooky Tooth.
Garner’s Blues Tent set, wedged between New Orleans’ Ernie Vincent and the Top Notes and young Baton guitar star Jonathon “Boogie” Long, seemed far too short, but he got a great response.
“It’s people like y’all who keep blues clubs from becoming karaoke bars,” the appreciative Garner said.