For someone who remains best known for one song, recorded nearly 20 years ago, Jimmy Buffett is swimming pretty these days. He has a clothing line, two best-selling novels, two restaurants, and a custom record label, which has just released Margaritaville Cafe New Orleans — Late Night Gumbo, a collection of Cajun musicians that celebrates one of those eateries. He has 26 albums under his belt, the latest being Barometer Soup. And, of course, he has his devout fans, the Parrotheads — a Hawaiian-shirted, alternate-universe version of the Deadheads, who, when not dragging margaritas out of their coolers at his high-grossing tours, are presumably wearing his sports shirts, reading his books, and buying his records.
His audience of affluent, aging yuppies can vacation in New Orleans, home to one of Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurants, and, most likely, hear some of the local acts featured on Margaritaville Cafe New Orleans. In keeping with Buffett’s good-time image, most of the music — by journeyman bands led by washboard player Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. and fiddler Waylon Thibodeaux, as well as the Rebirth Brass Band, the world’s funkiest marching band — is upbeat and feel-good. Even a forlorn, cry-in-your-gumbo ballad like Thibodeaux’s ”Here’s to Love” could entice people onto the dance floor of any bar — which, given Buffett’s intentions, is most likely the whole point.
Buffett himself makes two appearances on the album, literally phoning in his vocals from Key West on generic bar-band renditions of ”Sea Cruise” and ”Goodnight, Irene.” In both cases, he sounds like that pleasantly drunk guy at a wedding who steps up to the mike to sing with the adept wedding band. Buffett, the average guy with the above-average dynasty, wouldn’t have it any other way. B-