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Rarely is personal redemption a major event. Instead it’s usually made of a small gesture here, a slight change in mindset there and maybe a series of minor course corrections designed to put you on a better path going forward.

Following the underwhelming A-side that featured a song that was ripped-off from a better artist without credit, while at the same time potentially inferring something odious in its re-written title and hook referring to monkeys, Tommy Ridgley gets back on solid ground here.

It may not be anything special, but more importantly it’s not anything we’d rather avoid at all costs either, which constitutes progress.


Talking To Myself
Since at his best Tommy Ridgley was a workmanlike artist, someone who was capable in most ways but not bursting with hidden talent in any area, there’s always a tendency to be underwhelmed when studying his best sides, simply because little he’d done – or will do – has the ability to completely bowl you over.

But that’s the wrong way to look at artists like this who are more or less just role players in rock ‘n’ roll’s ever-expanding roster… someone to fill out the lineup card as it were, offering something that reflects their distinct stylistic or regional perspective but never defining them in the process.

With Ridgley he’s one of a stable of New Orleans rockers, each of whom with varying degrees of importance contribute to the sound penetrating the broader culture.

The fact that Ridgley may do so without quite the same strong gumbo flavoring as Smiley Lewis, Professor Longhair or Shirley & Lee, to say nothing of the figurehead of the movement in Fats Domino, makes him a little less compelling, but in a weird sort of way just as important. After all, if ALL of the Crescent City artists hit you with the same full-force sonic blast, there’d be more of a disconnect from the Northern or West Coast artists, still enjoyed but more easily segregated.

But Ridgley, with songs like Nobody Cares, brings just enough of the New Orleans spices to the meal without overwhelming the overall palette.

As such he’s kind of a subversive agent of the wider Louisiana forces, getting you to hear certain elements of it without necessarily being fully aware of its source.


In This World
We know the thing that usually sets a New Orleans rock record apart is the horn section… not just the components themselves but the way in which they’re prioritized in the arrangement.

Sure enough here they come out playing a lazy bouncing riff, simple and to the point but providing a nice loping pace to the record that suits Tommy Ridgley’s delivery. He’s down in the dumps (whaddaya know, yet another girl has fled a rock artist!) and his mood is despondent but also a little nonchalant, as if he’s trying to work past those feelings by acting like he doesn’t care as much as he clearly does.

It’s effective enough in that way, although even for those who bought this single Nobody Cares what his ultimate fate in the story will be. It’s just too simple of a story to invest with much concern, especially since the plot itself has already been used too many times to count. As long as it makes narrative sense and contains reasonably coherent lyrics that fit into the structure, we won’t complain.

Where we’ll actually cheer for this side however is in the fact Dave Bartholomew drops in something unexpected by giving us a guitar solo rather than the more predictable sax solo. We’re in no way saying that one is preferable to the other in a vacuum, but going back to the idea of someone like Ridgley being somewhat of a stealth operative of New Orleans rock, the fact they’re using a guitar which is now just starting to make its presence known in a few other areas of the country makes it a cleverly ingenious move here.

You still get the horns behind it, you still the get the same rhythmic components underneath and you still have a local voice delivering the goods on top, but the prominence of the guitar makes it stand out from the majority of New Orleans based tracks which may pull in a slightly different audience, thereby slipping the rest of the ingredients past their guard.

Maybe that’s not really crucial to do at this stage of rock, but as we’ll see in the future, the music industry, and especially radio and retail outlets, want to compartmentalize everything to corner the market on narrower tastes by breaking them off from the broader market and so as long as the various subgenres of rock, or in this case the regional representatives, are openly swapping parts, the entire genre is better off for it.


Tell Her To Pray For Me
None of this is going to help vault Tommy Ridgley higher on the already crowded rock ‘n’ roll ladder he’s been climbing since 1949, but it’s also not going to cause him to slip further back down again.

Likewise, this song isn’t going to draw in many listeners on its own, yet when heard it’s hardly going to turn any of them off either.

That may seem to confirm the title, that Nobody Cares about this one way or another.

But that’s not true. Records like this are only meant to be part of the larger fabric of the music at any given time. There’s value in that, as the deeper the catalog of current songs fulfilling the basic requirements of the genre, the more ubiquitous that genre becomes in popular culture.

Here the credit might belong more to Dave Bartholomew’s arrangement, or Ernest McLean’s stellar guitar work, than Ridgley himself, but his name’s on the label and he holds up his end alright, so we have no trouble saying he gave us what we needed here… nothing more, but nothing less.


(Visit the Artist page of Tommy Ridgley for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)