John Sieger
Sieger on Songs

John Boutté “Sisters” Is a Gem

And maybe the best salute to the power of sisters on their little brother.

By - Apr 28th, 2016 02:40 pm
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John Boutté. Photo by Robbie Mendelson (originally posted to Flickr as John Boutte) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

John Boutté. Photo by Robbie Mendelson (originally posted to Flickr as John Boutte) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

April 28th is a sad anniversary in my family. We lost our sister Mary in 1988 in a sudden and shocking way. It was a brain aneurysm and she was gone in a day, leaving behind two young boys who have, thankfully, turned into grown nephews anyone would be proud of. They are smart handsome, funny and most of all, loving. They got that from her.

I have another sister, Barbara, who has struggled her whole life against terrible odds. She was born with a condition called spina bifida and contracted polio before the vaccine. She is also smart and sensitive and very religious. That faith gives her strength, as she is in a fierce battle with degenerative lung disease.

My sisters were five and six years older than me and from them I learned a lot of important lessons. They kept an eye on me when I small and inspired me when I was older. I learned to embrace what I had at first thought was an annoying nasal rasp coming from a singer called Bob Dylan because of them. That got me into music, and music’s been good to me. Even more importantly, they taught me to respect and admire women.

That helps in the family I married into. It’s a veritable pool of estrogen. My wife Linsey is one of three sisters and they are as close and supportive of each other as you can get. She, Suzi and Jayne are just as close to their two cousins, Emily and Alli, and their aunt, Susan, one of the most remarkable women I have met. When these five women are together it’s a wonder to behold. To say they dominate the room is like saying Donald Trump has won a couple primaries. In that environment, the men sort of fold back into themselves, playing their cards very close to their chests, fearing that one slip-up could bring wrath, ridicule or both. Sounds intimidating, but standing on the sidelines watching this happen is a spectator sport I never tire of and I love them all.

In this song “Sisters,” by the New Orleans singer John Boutté, I hear everything I feel about the topic. There is a warm gulf breeze that sweeps over me when I listen to it in this relentlessly chilly month. I do remember flurries and slush as I raced down the highway to my sister’s hospital room, so weather is personal, an unavoidable mood setter. And of course, today is gray and in the low 40s.

Boutté has appeared on The Treme and his charming brand of super relaxed soul is enhanced by an uncanny resemblance to Sam Cooke every time he opens his mouth. This rollicking live version is different from the Caribbean-influenced recorded version. Both are great, but this one captures the sand in his voice and the energy of a great live performance. The lyrics start with a roll call in the key of “L.”

Lolette, Linette, Lillian, Lorna, Litta, Lenora
My lovely sisters who raised me back home I adore ya
My feet may be far from your door but I keep in my heart
The lesson you taught me when I was a boy in your arms

Lolette, Linette, Lillian, Lorna, Litta, Lenora
Everything I’m bringing, every song I’m singing’s for ya
My life’s still a mystery and all of my history’s with you
The love that you gave me has saved me it’s pulling me through

Sisters, sisters
I remember dancing in the kitchen
Sisters, sisters
When I was in trouble you were right there (bitchin)

Lolette, Linette, Lillian, Lorna, Litta, Lenora
Oceans and moonlight are calling your name from the shore
I’m in some foreign place and I don’t know a face where I am
And all that I’m needing is leading me home once again

Lolette, Linette, Lillian, Lorna, Litta, Lenora
Everything I’m bringing, every song I’m singing’s for ya
My life’s still a mystery and all of my history’s with you
The love that you gave me has saved me it’s pulling me through

Sisters, sisters
I remember dancing in the kitchen
Sisters, sisters
When I was in trouble you were right there (bitchin)

Lolette, Linette, Lillian, Lorna, Litta, Lenora
Oceans and moonlight are calling your name from the shore
I’m in some foreign place and I don’t know a face where I am
And all that I’m needing is leading me home once again
And all that I’m needing is leading me home once again
And all that I’m needing is leading me home

Lolette, Linette, Lillian, Lorna, Litta, Lenora

© John Boutté

This song must be fun to sing. It’s certainly a mouthful and I’d be nervous about getting the names right. He nails it every time and that’s probably good for family relations. Worried I would find out he had no sisters, which would make this song very odd, I was reassured by my friend Wiki that he does indeed have at the minimum, a Lillian. She’s a well known gospel singer and his first venture into the music biz was on a tour of Europe with her. I’m glad he chose music, if only for the picture this song paints. I picture a chaotic home, ruled by benign Amazonians who towered over him, loving him and keeping him in line. The dancing in the kitchen rhyme is clever and funny, but I bet it’s word that never crossed his lips back then for fear of a soapy mouth washing.

Soul, Gospel, Blues — it’s all alive and well in New Orleans. Right now, that town is in the throes of the annual Jazz and Heritage Festival. There will be plenty of hometown heroes and heroines celebrated, and it’s impossible to imagine they wouldn’t have a singer this good on one of the bigger stages. If I were there, I’d be shouting a request to him and dedicating it to all the sisters I can think of, including the one who will more than likely be running the country next year.

One thought on “Sieger on Songs: John Boutté “Sisters” Is a Gem”

  1. Christina Zawadiwsky says:

    Thanks for introducing me to John Boutte, and I especially like this poetic line from your article, “There is a warm gulf breeze that sweeps over me when I listen to it in this relentlessly chilly month”. These pieces that you write about song lyrics are absolutely top-notch!

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