By the 90s Willy DeVille had pretty well exhausted his New York-based nightclub grooves and Drifters-styled baion recreations, decamping to New Orleans to draw from other musical influences he knew and loved. Hooking up with local musicians – particularly guitarist Carlo Ditta, who became his producer – DeVille investigated the work of Allen Toussaint, Ernie K-Doe and Eddie Bo, singing their songs with his characteristic, sometimes anguished, attack.
This collection – the first of several due from Big Beat – is drawn from two albums, 1990’s Victory Mixture and ’95’s Big Easy Fantasy, and includes Hello My Lover, Who Shot The La-La and Irma Thomas’ Ruler Of My Heart, with all of them fitting the singer well. The 11 studio tracks that front-end the collection benefit from minimal studio overdubs, while the six live tracks reveal DeVille in all his gutsy glory, notably on his take on Iko Iko.
Though not as immediately commercial as some of his earlier recordings, the music here provides eloquent proof of a talented man invigorated by his interpretations of classic music. Had the singer not been fighting drug problems, his invigorating new music might have given rise to a new commercial peak.