Like so many New Orleans performers, James Andrews is part of a musical dynasty. Two of the Big Easy's R&B greats are his relatives: Prince La La and Jessie Hill. An uncle, Prince La La is best remembered for his song "She Put a Hurt On Me." Hill, whose 1960 hit "Ooh-Poo-Pah-Doo" is an R&B landmark classic, is Andrews' grandfather. Although Hill did not live to see the release of his grandson's acclaimed 1998 CD, he no doubt is proud from his vantage point on the other side.
That CD, Satchmo of the Ghetto, opens with an homage to Andrews' grandfather. The song "Poops Ain't Gotta Scuffle No More" is a tribute to Hill penned by two of his admirers and students: Allen Touissant and Dr. John. Both musicians used what their mentor taught them to become giants of the R&B genre; both gave something back by helping their friend James Andrews create his first CD, by authoring songs as well as providing lead and backup vocals and instrumentation. Dr. John and Touissant shine with Andrews on such tunes as "Latin Cats," "It's Only a Paper Moon," and "Got Me a New Love Thing." A particular standout is Andrews' "upstairs" rendition of "The Old Rugged Cross."
Andrews wrote many of the songs which appear on the recording, his favorite being "Sweet Emma," in honor of one of the piano-playing stars at Preservation Hall in the French Quarter. It was there that the young musician learned much about the traditional jazz idiom that now figures so largely in his own music. His nickname, "Satchmo of the Ghetto," speaks of his love for Louis Armstrong and traditional jazz.
In this reverence, he was joined by other musicians from his Treme neighborhood, including Kermit Ruffins. Both trumpeters gave their talents to the nouveau brass bands that came up in the city after the success of the Dirty Dozen, under the tutelage of the late, great Danny Barker. Andrews played with the Treme Brass Band on its popular Gimme My Money Back CD. He also started his own group, the New Birth Brass Band. Their joyous and eclectic sound can be heard on their 1997 release D-Boy.
The talents of the trumpeter and vocalist are appreciated by a number of his musical colleagues. He appears on Ruffins' 1992 World on a String CD. He has also recorded with Chuck Carbo, Doc Cheatham, Anders Osborne, Royal Fingerbowl, and Charles Neville.
Andrews has absorbed all of his early influences and incorporated them into a sound that is unmistakably his own. You can hear it as he takes the lead in playing music that listeners can dance to, and preserving the fun-loving street sound of the city of his birth. ~ Rose of Sharon Witmer