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Big Sun to Release Joe Tullos' Posthumous Release 'Vessels'


Tullos died in November of 2020 and his friends and collaborators were determined to get his last performances out into the world.

Big Sun to Release Joe Tullos' Posthumous Release 'Vessels'

A native of Louisiana's River Parishes and longtime New Orleanian, Joe Tullos had a life that some would compare to the "Most Interesting Man in the World" memes, as a musician, raconteur, chef and traveler. Longtime rock photographer Michael Benson sums it all up in the liner notes for Tullos posthumous final album, Vessels, recounting "He wrote music for Jimmy Buffet, cooked for John Grisham and toured with Carl Perkins, but those moments were just the tip of the iceberg in the legend of Joe Tullos." Tullos died in November of 2020 and his friends and collaborators were determined to get his last performances out into the world.

Vessels will be released on October 1, 2020 on Big Sun Records, named for Tullos' first band to break through, Big Sun. The Times Picayune praised their self-titled debut, saying "Artfully produced by Charles Brady, the disc combines Tullos's simple, heartfelt songs with the kind of near-psychedelic, aural textures you don't usually get from an independently released debut." The album title refers, in part, to Tullos's wish for his ashes to be placed in a glass sphere and placed in the ocean off the North Carolina coast where the Gulf Stream would carry him away. The sphere appears on the album cover. Producer Michael Paz, one of Tullos' closest friends, remembers, "My admiration for his songwriting came with the first Big Sun album and continued till now. I am still discovering songs that he wrote and I never heard. We have a treasure chest of tapes and videos as well as written notebooks filled with great lyrics and songs. It was his final wish for me to help him get this out to the world cause he knew I was up for the challenge and he could count on me keeping the flame lit."

Tullos beat cancer in 2015, and in the summer of 2020, he was diagnosed with a new bout; his prognosis was not good. But rather than go into the hospital for radical treatment, he decided to go into the studio and record one last album. The project became a musical version of This is Your Life. Three old friends stepped up to help produce his final recording: drummer Kevin Aucoin, who had been Tullos's bandmate and friend since he was a teenager; fellow Big Sun alum keyboardist/accordionist/vocalist and music director for the project Mark 'Byrdawg' Dillon; and artist manager and music producer, Michael Paz.

Recording was done at Aucoin's French Quarter studio. Tullos poured everything he had into laying down tracks up until two weeks before he died, creating a collection of songs that skillfully jumps from one genre to the next, with his heart-wrenching, plaintive voice and masterful lyrics at the center of all. It is the perfect punctuation for a life lived in music.

Also appearing on the album are band members from the Big Sun era: Randy Ellis on guitars, James Slaughter on bass, Stephen 'Beaver' Montz on guitar/bass/vocals, and Brian Stoltz on guitar. Melanie Scott, who was the vocalist with Odyssey (along with Kevin Aucoin) joins Tullos in a duet on "Don't Break On Me". New Orleans musicians Beth Patterson on bouzouki and oboe, pedal steel guitarist Dave Easley and cellist Alex Price add their own special seasoning. Friends from North Carolina also contributed, with Stu Cole on bass/guitars/dobro and Rob Sharer on violin/viola. The project was mixed by Steve Himelfarb, who recorded Tullos's first album, Big Sun, in 1992.

Tullos wrote and collaborated with many of the local talents in the New Orleans music scene and many of those songs ended up in Nashville. "Wild One," originally released on a Margaritaville Records compilation by writing partners Will Rambeaux and Jaime Kyle was a huge hit for Faith Hill. These verdant scenes were also populated by artists affiliated to the Dinosaur label, who signed Carl Perkins and Joe in the same timeframe. Remembers Andrea Tullos (Joe's wife): "His press junket was scheduled to follow the press junket for Carl Perkins. Carl had done a compilation "Go Cat Go" for Dinosaur, that had Tom Petty, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and others. Carl became a mentor and friend to Joe. They traveled together to LA, NY, Nashville, New Orleans, etc. when I say traveled together, they rode in the same cars, they sat on the same stages, they spoke to the same people. It bonded them."

While Tullos did not live till a ripe old age, he packed decades of experiences into the time he had, and music fans are all the more fortunate as a result. Fans can expect two more releases of new material as well as reissues of the Big Sun album and Joe's The Scoundrels Waltz.

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