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Hip, Hip, Hurray For The Riff Raff

Hip, Hip, Hurray For The Riff Raff
Photo Courtesy of the Artist

By Suzy Exposito
February 5, 2014

Name: Hurray For The Riff Raff

Where They’re From: New Orleans, LA (formerly the Bronx, NY)

When They Started: 2007

Genre: Folk/Americana

For fans of: The Lumineers, Neko Case, Marissa Nadler

Sounds like: Hanging out with some delightfully disheveled friends, gliding downriver in a house boat covered in fairy lights.

From the Bronx to the Bayou, the journey of Hurray For The Riff Raff is an epic one. Twenty-six-year-old band leader Alynda Lee Segarra got into music as a teen in New York City, watching girl bands shred in the endearingly grimy confines of local DIY  punk venue ABC No Rio. There she met some young travelers, who inspired her to start hitchhiking at 17. She made her way out West and all around the United States, until finally settling in New Orleans, where she worked on her banjo skills with a band of buskers.

Years later, she shows utmost love and gratitude for the city she calls home — warts and all. Her new album, Small Town Heroes, is a 12-song love letter to New Orleans, completed by both jovial songs of praise and solemn songs of scrutiny. Segarra sings her observations with a low, lazy drawl that is far from subdued; however gentle, her voice commands attention, and carries a weathered wisdom well beyond her years. In fact, I would argue that if you could somehow convert years to miles traveled, it’s safe to say Segarra’s earned that wisdom fair and square.

The subject matter in Small Town Heroes surpasses the confines of Nola city lines, addressing universal themes from small-town blues to structural inequalities. As a musician who identifies as feminist and queer, Segarra enjoys subverting a traditionally male, heterosexual-heavy platform such as folk music to promote social change. In “The Body Electric” she confronts the hackneyed use of violence against women as a popular narrative vehicle in folk music. “You say you’re gonna shoot me down/put my body in the river while the whole world sings/like there’s nothing going on.” She eggs on the skeptics further with the powerful lines, “Tell me what’s a man with a rifle in his hand/Gonna do for a world that’s so sick and sad?”

Segarra’s contributions to the American folk landscape are not only different, but incredibly valuable. True to the band’s name, Hurray For The Riff Raff prompts us not only to think of how things could be better, but to celebrate every step we make towards progress, however big or small. Stay tuned for the release of  Small Town Heroes, out on February 11th via ATO Records.

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