Album Review

Harry Connick, Jr. "Smokey Mary"

Released February 5, 2013

Danielle Raub

Harry Connick, Jr. ushers in the carnival season with his newest album. Named for the famous Mardi Gras float, Smokey Mary captures the modish and off-beat style of Mardi Gras with R&B and funky musical motifs.

Shying away from his usual jazzy and ragtime approach, Connick chooses an easy-going, fun, and off-beat theme. The album’s opening song, “Smokey Mary”, begins with a very clunky and whimsical piano riff. The marriage of breezy lyrics and syncopation works with the celebratory and buoyant tone of the album. His usual broody tone takes on a more stripped-down timbre and works well with the overall style. “S’pposed to Be” is a very uplifting tune; Connick does a duet with Tara Alexander and both musicians convey a sense of fun and lightheartedness in their vocals.

There are certain songs that fall short on the album. “Dang You Pretty” in particular leaves a bit to be desired lyrically and musically. Though rhythmically groovy, “Dang You Pretty” is repetitive and ill-constructed, crossing borders from whimsical and fun to tacky and gaudy.

The shining aspect of this album is the ensemble. Dictating the tempo throughout, the Creole brass band serves as the major driving force of the album. The big band brightens up an album that would otherwise be dull; suffering from repetitiveness and lacking musicality. The horn and percussion in combination with Connick’s vocals captures the upbeat funk of the album and the whimsical fun that is Mardi Gras. Connick’s vocals alone would be unable to embody this special carnival-feel.

A divergence from his usual smooth jazz style, Smokey Mary explores Connick’s passion for carnival and his News Orleans roots. While at times dangerously close to being repetitive and underwhelming, the Creole brass band manages to instill a celebratory fun to the album and succeeds in capturing the heart of Mardi Gras.