Florida Electric Voodoo Blues 'n Boogie

Protected by Voodoo (Little Silver Records)

By Tim Roberts

Miami-based Iko-Iko was the band in the stage production of Jimmy Buffett's and Herman Wouk's "Don't Stop the Carnival," hand-picked by Buffett himself. But don't think that what you'll hear on this release will be parrothead-clone songs about drinking margaritas and lounging on the beach. Sometimes heady and thick as swamp fog, other times clear and bright as a morning in Cocoa Beach, Iko-Iko has served up a delicious eleven-course variety of blues styles with Protected by Voodoo. Lyrically, the tunes have the normal blues themes: a preoccupation with sin, uncertainty, getting your goodies now and paying for them later, a coin-toss hope for redemption. Combining, those lyrics with the varied styles, Iko-Iko has brewed up a potent kettle of juice that goes down smooth and glows in your gut.

This fourth release from the quintet starts with the theme-determining "Millers Wood," where the woods are described as a place "Where the air is Bible black / And it hangs down on your shoulders / Like a devil on your back." Musically, we jump from the southern rock of "The Flood" to "Party Car," tinged with a Cajun sound that takes you right to the party atmosphere of Mardi Gras. Then there's the growly sax work behind "Bag Me, Tag Me, Take Me Away" and its jitterbug rhythm.

Sandwiched between these and the balance of the CD are two slower atmospheric pieces. "I Got Gris-Gris," which contains enough voodoo terminology that anyone listening to it can become a medicine man or woman. Ronald James Dziuba's steady whole-notes from his Hammond XB-2 organ define the selection, give it the haunting tone with their constancy of a mist hanging over the marsh. This segues softly into "Walk With the Zombie," another dark blues about those who work the voodoo magic, how detached they ar from the world, how "some men go down to the river / Some men never come back."

Next we're offered our shot at redemption "When the Devil Calls Collect," a selection that gets comical toward the end. Then things take a more spiritual turn with "Living Outside the Law," sung in a tent revival gospel style. However, there's a bittersweet ending to the disk with "3 Fingered Fellers Named Shorty," about the men who "Greasc the gears on the carnival ride" and "shine your shoes down at the race track." Unlike the characters in the rest of the songs, these aren't the guys who risk dabbling in the danger of voodoo. These are the ones who don't have the luxury of magic to be alienated from the rest of us. If we began with our tour through the ethereal "Millers Woods," we come to reality with "3 Fingered Fellers."

Protected by Voodoo starts us at the fronds of the willow tree and lakes us to the roots.