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August 20, 2010

Book Notes - Mat Johnson ("Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

After reading Dark Rain, I can honestly say that Mat Johnson has become one of my favorite comics writers. His graphic novel Incognegro wowed me a couple of years ago, and Dark Rain is equally impressive.

Dark Rain is more than the story of two ex-cons and their New Orleans bank heist in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Johnson draws both the good and bad of the post-Katrina landscape in his characters, while illustrator Simon Gane's pen and ink artwork enhances the story without ever overpowering it.

In his own words, here is Mat Johnson's Book Notes music playlist for his graphic novel, Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story:

"Words Like These" -The Mean

This song has been in my head since I wrote Dark Rain. Sometimes there are bands that no one has heard of that you get to covet and you love that. Sometimes there are songs that you wish that the world would hear. This is one of the latter. The Mean is the best band that nobody knows about (hear it at

"Shimmy She Wobble"- Otha Turner & The Afrossipi Allstars

The perfect mix of Africa and America with neither sound diluted. This song is encompasses why I love the Gulf region. It just feels real.

"A Man of Experience and Wisdom"- Mulata Astake

When I have to do serious Man shit, shit I don't want to do but has to be done, this is the song in my head.

"All I See Is Pain"- Chris Ardoin & Double Clutchin

To me, this is what the Gulf sounds like: a combination of exuberance and agony, and a peace with that contrast. Creole Zydeco is like a crawfish, this amazing treasure unique to this area. Chris Ardoin is the Micheal Jackson of Zydeco- child star turned grown innovator. He's the future.

"Zydeco Gris-Gris"- Pine Leaf Boys

Starts out somber, goes into a party, then lies on the hook. I like how Pine Leaf Boys lean on the violin, and it takes them there.

"Gardes Lá-Bas" –Cedric Watson

Watson is the new school version of old school Zydeco. And he has the skills to pull it off.

"Co Fa"- Keith Frank & The Soileau Zydeco Band

A classic Zydeco tuned modernized, filtered through Reggea and the modern world. You can hear that second beat begging you to get up and two step.

"Quo Faire" –Alphonse "Bois Sec" Ardoin with Canray Fontenot

The gods of Zydeco themselves in the original version of the song Keith Frank modernized. Just violin, accordion, and some spoons and washboard behind it. And all the heart in between.

"Bon Soir Moreau"- –Alphonse "Bois Sec" Ardoin with Canray Fontenot

Swinging back in forth, it makes me feel like I'm on a carousel outside Lafayette, Louisiana, with the humid wind spinning and blowing me on.

"Meet Me In The City"- Junior Kimbrough

Senegal comes through the South in this haunting song of longing and desperation. There was a time in my life when I had this on loop for days. Always a must have for pushing through the expanse on I-10 between Houston and New Orleans.

"Going Down South" – R. L. Burnside

If you're going on a roadtrip in the South, you have to play this song the moment you set the ignition on. It's fuel for the soul.

"Meet the Boys on the Battlefront"- The Wild Tchoupitoulas

So much has been made about these Mardi Gras Indian giants. So let me just add this: listen to how it succeeds just on a funk level. Just as funk, it's classic.

Mat Johnson and Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story links:

the author's website
the illustrator's website
excerpt (at Graphic Content)
excerpt (at Techland)

Atomic Books Comics Preview review
Crave review
Graphic Novel reporter review
IGN review
Newsarama review review
Publishers Weekly review
Show and Tell review
Strange Last Name review

Graphic Content guest post by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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