Spencer Bohren and New Orleans

Three years ago this weekend, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Now New Orleans is being evacuated as the city once again finds itself in the path of another storm. As of this writing, Hurricane Gustav is a category 4 storm just over a day away from making landfall in Louisiana.

Friday night, as I was leaving the radio station after my air shift, I was listening to the blues show that follows me on Friday Nights (Johnny Mac’s Friday Night Blues Attack). Johnny Mac was playing music by artists from the New Orleans area who had been affected by Katrina. The first song he played that night was “The Long Black Line” by Spencer Bohren.

Bohren (pictured above) is a native of New Orleans. He is a multi-talented individual who creates shadowbox artwork, does educational presentations on the history of blues music, and is a respected blues musician who has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion and toured with The Blind Boys of Alabama. In 2005, Spencer Bohren lost his home to Hurricane Katrina.

The song “The Long Black Line” was his account of post Katrina New Orleans. The title refers to the line of waste and debris left behind on the city in the wake of receding flood waters. The lines marked the highest points the water reached during the flood. I wish I had a copy of that song to share with you, but I do not. Friday night was the first time I ever heard it.

It did remind me of a conversation I had with Spencer Bohren back in November of 2005 when I was host of Americana Crossroads at Morehead State Public Radio. The interview took place just a few short months after Katrina had ravaged his hometown, and Bohren was obviously shaken by some of the things he had seen. On the air that night, he shared some of his experiences with me about trying to rebuild his home and his hometown.

The following is an excerpt from my interview with Spencer Bohren from November 2005. This is a piece I put together to air on a daily news magazine show that I produced at the the time. I actually uncovered it earlier this week when I found my old radio audition reel.

Interview with Spencer Bohren

You can find out more about Bohren at his website… www.spencerbohren.com. He wrote several letters and essays about his experiences with Katrina and his love for New Orleans. You can find them here. I certainly hope that Bohren and the people of New Orleans don’t have to tell these same stories over again in the wake of Gustav.

So this post isn’t a total downer… here is a sample of Bohren’s music. This is my favorite Bohren track. It’s one called “Born in a Biscayne” from the CD Vintage.

Spencer Bohren: Born in a Biscayne (Buy Album)

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