BILLY IUSO (New Orleans, LA)
“It’s a tribute to his growth as a musician that this much firepower could appear on an album that stays resolutely in service to the song.” — John Swenson, Offbeat Editor-at-Large
When New Orleans guitarist Billy Iuso changed his musical course on 2013’s “Naked,” his newly sharpened focus on singing and lyric writing received critical acclaim — and plenty of love from his national fan base. Now front and center in way they’ve never been before, Billy’s earthy vocal tone and the disarmingly raw sentiments embedded in his lyrics lend a richer dynamic to the muscular fretwork that’s always powered his performance. Combined with shifting blues-rock textures, echoes of psychedelia and soulful New Orleans funk rhythms, the results paved the way for a reinvigorated, more song-centric direction in Billy’s artistic output.
In 2014, he took those concepts a step further, returning to the studio to record the forthcoming follow-up to “Naked” with an all-star cast of special guests including George Porter and Art Neville. Citing Porter and Neville as well as Bob Marley, Paul Weller, Steve Winwood and Traffic among his many muses, Billy explains that as he matures, inspiration comes from a mix of words, sounds and musicians. “I’m writing more songs as I get older,” he says. “Sometimes a new song comes from a story, sometimes from a guitar riff – each one has its own life.”
A New York native who formed the funky, psychedelic guitar-fronted Brides of Jesus in the early ‘90s, Billy quickly developed a strong following on the Wetlands scene alongside Warren Haynes, Blues Traveler and the Spin Doctors. As the Brides’ popularity continued to soar, they shared bills with Widespread Panic and the Dave Matthews Band. While touring and collaborating with a host of key members of the jam band community, Billy explored the roots of the bands that influenced him most – including Little Feat, whose music turned him on to the Meters. Eventually, he opened for the Meters at shows across the country. It wasn’t long before George Porter and Art Neville were encouraging him to relocate to New Orleans permanently, which he did in 1996. Billy quickly established himself on the live music scenes, forming the Restless Natives in 2002 and performing regularly with the Wild Magnolias and Anders Osborne.
Today, the Restless Natives remain a local music scene staple, while Billy frequently sits in on guitar with old friends like Osborne, Porter and Neville. A longtime proponent of the “peace through music” message, Billy also pays regular homage to his musical heroes as a member of Dead Feat alongside Grateful Dead alum Bill Kreutzmann and Little Feat’s Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett.