A large part of the essence of New Orleans is, and always will be, steeped in its rich musical history. The Crescent City has given birth to and nurtured artists ranging from Louis Armstrong to Mannie Fresh, The Neville Brothers to Big Freedia, and Wynton Marsalis to Rebirth Birth Brass Band. Even artists that hail from other places find themselves drawn to the city, often inspiring them to call it home at times, like Lenny Kravitz, Yasiin Bey and Solange have all done. One of the newest acts to be added to Nola’s musical gumbo is a band called Tank and the Bangas. The soulful bunch have been one of the city’s best kept secrets for a while and are ready to spread their wings for the world to see with their recent release, Think Tank.
Headed by vocalist-poet Tarriona “Tank” Ball, the Bangas include bassist Norman Spence, percussionist Nita Bailey, drummer Joshua Johnson and keyboardist Merell Burkett. Think Tank is a blend of multiple genres, including elements of rock (“Rhythm of Life”), reggae (“Eggs Over Easy”) and doo-wop (“Oh Heart”). Go-go influences run rampant on the group’s official single, “Boxes and Squares,” a lively uptempo jam that displays Tank’s big voice in all its textured glory. Soul takes center stage on standouts like “Theme Parks,” “Ripperton Love” and “Interlude.” Tank plays multiple roles on the album, including that of poet, storyteller and truthsayer, imparting lots of wisdom and life observations along the way. For their part, the Bangas provide the lush backdrop for Tank’s stories of love lost and the life lessons that follow to unfold.
The live stage provides the band with the perfect chance to shine. While we had heard a few songs here and there, it was their live performance that ultimately won us over. We had the chance to check them out a few weeks ago at a festival in New Orleans. On an otherwise overcast day whose clouds threatened to open up at any time, Tank and the Bangas provided the sunshine that eluded the crowd that day. Although her set kicked off with a just a handful of spectators, by the end of their stage time, they had drawn a crowd that extended beyond the stage’s confines thanks in part to the vocal harmonies of Tank and her background singers, whose voices seemed to float above the other artists who were unlucky enough to go on at the same time on other stages.
If you aren’t close enough to check out the group’s live show, then Think Tank is the next best thing. Now available on iTunes and Amazon, the album is the perfect vehicle to expand their fanbase with the Bangas topnotch musicianship and Tank’s colorful vocal delivery. For all of those who like try before you buy, then have no fear because you can check out the album in its entirety on Spotify.