Epic voodoo funk
Malcolm “Papa Mali” Welbourne is the rough-cut sweetheart of the swamp. He plays with his band, Papa Mali and the Instigators, at the Half Moon Saloon today at 10 p.m.Guitarist, vocalist and master of ceremonies Welbourne tours with drummer Barry “Frosty” Smith, bassist Courtney Audain, keyboardist Claude McCan, percussionist Paul “Buddha” Mills, vocalist Bevis Griffin and saxophonist Tomas Ramirez. Things can get a little rowdy on stage.Their first album, “Thunder Chicken,” is filled with rubbery, dirty swamp-rock, blues and funk. It’s a testament to Welbourne’s upbringing, as he went back and forth from his parents in Shreveport, Louisiana to his grandparents in New Orleans.”Who are these dudes?,” wrote Lee Froelich from Playboy Magazine. “Haven’t heard swamp music this good since Tony Joe White. Papa definitely has Spanish moss on his antlers.”Welbourne named the album after an “old-time brand of extra strong wine that played a certain role” in his formative years, according to his official bio. It’s southern-fried all the way. Top marks go to the cover of Dr. John’s underground classic, “Walk on Guilded Splinters.” Those with the CD can pop it into a computer and witness the video for the track, B-movie style all the way.Key to the sound is drummer Smith, who has played with the likes of Lee Michaels, Sly and the Family Stone, Dr. John, Soulhat, Sweathog, Parliament/Funkadelic, Rare Earth and Steve Miller Blues Band.He’s called a “funk clock” because of his swanky, monster-like drumming. He drives each song with energy and precision, drawing on his seasoned funk and R&B background.A high moment for the group was traveling to New Orleans – the band is based in Austin, Texas – for Mardi Gras and playing for 50,000 revelers.Whether or not anybody was coherent enough to absorb the music remains debatable, but most of the folks had smiles on their faces and wiggles in their feet.Welbourne tromped off to Jamaica as a youngster, and fell in love with reggae. Killer Bees was his first reggae band, a staple on the Austin scene. He received the nickname Papa Mali from Burning Spear when the two toured together. He’s been Papa Mali ever since.Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.