The Voice of New Orleans — John Boutté


Sometimes you go back. Back to a place that feels like home, where everything clicks. And it does. Where folks remember you in all the places though it has been a few years since you’ve been back. Where you’ve made a lot of memories, and are always ready to make more.

Sometimes you go to church. A place of rejoicing. A place of goodness.

Sometimes that place is what has been called your neighborhood bar in a city you always seems to come back to and love but you don’t live in… yet.

Sometimes you get to see your favorite singer. And both weep and smile and dance and sing along with him.

That singer is John Boutté.

The bar is d.b.a. on Frenchmen Street.

There is nothing like John’s voice, his sass, and his joy. And I am always grateful when I get to see him perform. Preach.

Nothing else for me is usually heavily planned here, things just happen, I love to go with the flow and discover. I’ve been to New Orleans many times and sometimes I never set foot on Bourbon Street. But the one thing I do before plan my trips here is to scour the WWOZ FM and Offbeat music calendarshoping my timing is good to see John.

This time, again, luckily it was.

D.b.a. is one of those bars you sit down in and just feel comfortable, surrounded by wooden walls that drip with music history. The manager, Michael is a darling and the place hasn’t changed much since I started visiting sometimes 2–3 times a year thanks to many Microsoft and other tech events at the convention center since 2002.

Tonight we saw a new set up for John, no horn section, an upright piano, stand-up base, guitar and John and his trusty tambourine. (along with his sweet family next to the stage). New versions and arrangements of his standards in different keys were gorgeous, full and pure with Todd Duke on guitar, Nobu Ozaki on bass and Oscar Rossignoli on the piano.


Hallelujah, sing hallelujah. John’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s song is majestic. There is nothing like a crowd of people singing this song together to remind you of who we are as humans, who we should be and that we all need a little more kindness, love and compassion in our lives, our country, this world of ours. A favorite of his Mother’s — his Battle Hymn of the Republic was fiery and injected with hope and notes of quiet that haunt. A audience member asked for Sisters, a song about his 6 sisters that is a sweet, blessing to the women who influenced him and encourage him growing up. Lolette, Linette, Lillian, Lorna, Litta, Lenora, a favorite.

John is a national treasure, passionate, feisty as they come, a musician’s musician and what plays in my house in Los Angeles on Sunday Mornings. To me John is pure exultation, unadulterated truth, a spark of light who deserves the deference of the crowd so you don’t miss a single note of his grit, goodness, grace and gravitas. His music is available on Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.

I discovered John during my first trip to New Orleans over 15 years ago when we stayed at The Frenchman Hotel in the Marigny. And D.b.a. became a haunt, my “local” for over a decade, birthday parties and bringing hoards of people and my parents to see John. He had a long sweet conversation with my folks before one of his sets a few years ago. He is one who always has a sparkle in his eye, his laughter is infectious and always hangs out to chat after his shows. During that first trip, his rendition of Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come knocked me out and I was hooked.

You may know John from the beautiful HBO series Treme as both an actor and writer and singer of one of the best theme songs ever created. John wrote this song years before and it was used for the series. And in my humble opinion no trip to New Orleans is complete without seeing him live. John sings at d.b.a. usually on Mondays.

John is seventh generation Creole, and grew up in the 7th Ward. He often partners with Paul Sanchez of Cowboy Mouth, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them at Voodoo Fest in 2010, playing at the museum and many other wonderful, small venues in the city.

You can learn all about John from his website — and you should.

Thank you John for all the goodness you have brought and continue to bring to my life. I play your version of Mahalia Jackson’s song when I’m in need of lift, so happy you sang this tonight. You are a gift.

To smile when you’re happy, to smile when you’re sad

To look pleasing when mistreated

To be calm when you’re mad

Oh, be forgiving if someone abuse you

For the good Lord looks for such

Live right each day and smile on your way

It don’t cost very much

No it don’t cost very much well to place a gentle touch

To give a glass of water to a pilgrim in need of such

Well you may not be an angel and you may not go to church

But the good that you do will come back to you

It don’t cost very much

Help the cripple man by the wayside

Help the blind man cross the street

Be careful but kind to strangers

Speak politely to those you meet

Oh, be forgiving if someone abuse you

For the good Lord looks for such

Live right each day and smile on your way

It don’t cost very much

No it don’t cost very much well to place a gentle touch

To give a glass of water to a pilgrim in need of such

To the blind man, give him glasses

To the cripple man, give him a crutch

For the good that you do will come back to you

It don’t cost very much

from 2010 to today, still looking good :)

from 2010 to today, still looking good :)


Heather is a marketer, writer, playwright, Microsoft MVP and lover of culture and “the why”. She has worked for over 20 years in technology and the arts.

Heather lives in Los Angeles, California and enjoys traveling the world speaking about Office 365, SharePoint and Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging. She is a published playwright, was born and raised in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois and is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Drama, Seattle WA. Heather is always looking for an excuse to go to New Orleans, London, Brooklyn and the list of cities she made in her Dad’s Time/Life map when she was 11.

Follow her travels and writing on Twitter Instagram. Catch Heather on Medium where she is a top writer in Inspiration. Check out her IG Story for #TheCurlerReport, tales of woman on the go who happens to love her hot rollers. Listen to her podcast: Mavens Do It Better on iTunes, Stitcher or website. Full disclosure on LinkedIn. Follow on Instagram and IG Stories for real time happenings.

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