Top Ten Songs From the First Season of Treme

David Simon's latest series, Treme, debuted on HBO last April to much critical acclaim. Set in the city of New Orleans, Treme follows the lives of a handful of different characters as they cope with the everyday ins and outs of living in a post-Katrina New Orleans. Treme, much like The Wire before it, has an even more remarkable soundtrack -- a crucial component if New Orleans' story is to be at all accurately portrayed on a medium such as television.

In honor of the second season premiere of Treme this Sunday, I now present the ten best songs from the first season of David Simon's Treme.

10. John Boutté -- "Treme Song"

It's pretty clear that this list had to start with the song Simon pegged to be the theme song to Treme. John Boutté's "Treme Song" is an upbeat take on life in New Orleans' Tremé neighborhood -- the focal point for the show. Tremé is also known for being a more musically-inclined neighborhood, serving as the center for the modern brass band tradition.

9. Jelly Roll Morton -- "I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say"
Featured in the seventh episode of the season, "Smoke My Peace Pipe," this song from New Orleans jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton is an homage to his contemporary turn-of-the-century jazz musicians. In 1902, Morton claimed outright to have invented jazz -- a claim that, while rife with hyperbole, can't entirely be disputed otherwise.

8. New Orleans Jazz Vipers -- "I Hope You're Comin' Back To New Orleans" 
This original piece from the noted Frenchmen Street seven-piece jazz/swing band made it to the Treme soundtrack compilation. The Vipers are part of a gowing group of bands who play without the aid of amplification, trusting that their audience will quiet down enough during their performances. The Vipers were also featured in the first season of Treme, with founding member Joe Braun even playing himself as a featured character.

7. Ernie K-Doe -- "A Certain Girl"
Noted eccentric, Charity Hospital baby and self-billed "Emperor of the Universe," Ernie K-Doe rose to fame in 1961 with his #1 Billboard hit "Mother-in-Law." It's his song "A Certain Girl," however, that was featured in the third episode of the series "Right Place, Wrong Time." K-Doe, who passed away in 2001, was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

6. Professor Longhair -- "Mardi Gras In New Orleans"
Featured in perhaps the first season's finest episode, "All On a Mardi Gras Day," Professor Longhair's 1973 ditty about The Big Easy's most celebrated day encapsulates perfectly the Mardi Gras attitude. There's really no way to make this list without one song from Fess, as he was so affectionately known. The staggering influence of Professor Longhair on the multitude of New Orleans musicians is a testament to his unbelievable talents.

5. The Meters -- "People Say"
If there's no way to make this list without at least one song from Fess, then the same applies to The Meters. The influential funk band had multiple songs featured throughout the first season of Treme, yet the first track from their 1974 album Rejuvenation -- "People Say" is perhaps one their most underrated songs. Featured in the season's fifth episode, "Shame Shame, Shame," the song isn't as instantly recognizable as "Hey Pocky A-Way" or "Cissy Strut," yet it's easily just as enjoyable.

4. Irma Thomas -- "It's Raining"
Poignantly positioned at the end of the aforementioned episode "Shame, Shame, Shame," the standout track from the "Soul Queen of New Orleans" Irma Thomas is yet another solid selection for the show's soundtrack. Thomas even played herself in a few episode, swindling some cash from one of the show's main characters, Antoine Batiste, in a poker game.

3. Louis Prima -- "Buona Sera"
Featured in the first episode of the season, "Buona Sera" showcases Louis Prima's Sicilian -- as well as his New Orleans -- heritage. The songs of "The King of the Swing," as he was more affectionately known, have been covered by such artists as David Lee Roth and The Stray Cats, yet it's his lesser known "Buona Sera" that found its way into the lexicon of Treme.

2. Lee Dorsey -- "Who's Gonna Help My Brother Get Further"
Songs like "Ya Ya" and "Working in a Coal Mine" may be among his more well-known offerings, but Dorsey's 1970 song "Who's Gonna Help My Brother Get Further" is undoubtedly one of his best. Featured in the seventh episode of the season, the song is a rare funk classic that was one of his last collaborations with Allen Toussaint. What's even more remarkable is that in 1980, Dorsey opened for The Clash on their U.S. tour.

1. Rebirth Brass Band -- "I Feel Like Funkin' It Up"
The Rebirth Brass Band, formed in 1982 in the Tremé neighborhood, made their name by brining contemporary influences such as soul, funk and hip hop to the more traditional styles associated with brass bands. The second track from the their 1991 album Do Whatcha Wanna, "I Feel Like Funkin' It Up" was used early in the first episode of Treme. It's a smart move because there might just be no song finer than "I Feel Like Funkin' It Up." In fact, I have no reservations in declaring that I believe "I Feel Like Funkin' It Up" to be one of -- if not the -- greatest songs ever recorded in the history of New Orleans.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Lopez