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The Meters remain the measure of New Orleans funk

In Hear ThisA.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, in celebration of Mardi Gras, we’re picking songs we think could soundtrack our personal parades.

In the same way Booker T. & The M.G.’s embodied the sound of Memphis soul in the ’60s, the funkier, gumbo-fueled The Meters define New Orleans R&B. And it all came together in 1969 with “Cissy Strut.” One of the band’s first singles—and the opening track of its self-titled debut album—“Cissy Strut” is an instrumental for the ages. And one that’s quintessentially New Orleans, right down to its bones. From Ziggy Modeliste’s popping percussion to Art Neville’s saucy keyboard vamps, the song’s pieces lock together like hooky, euphoric clockwork.

This is the soundtrack to a Big Easy parade, which is no wonder, seeing as how Neville and crew drew as heavily from the second-line tradition of New Orleans street processions as it did the sound of The M.G.’s and James Brown. The Meters also worked with famed producer Allen Toussaint on classic recordings by the likes of Lee Dorsey and Dr. John—and Neville would find later success with his siblings, Aaron included, in The Neville Brothers—but nothing touches the swaggering, syncopated sway of “Cissy Strut.”