Meet the Canine Crooner: A Crescent City Sounds Artist Spotlight
On a rainy day in July 2021, Craig Cortello was sitting on his porch with his border collie puppy, Enzo, strumming his guitar, when an idea for a new song hit him.
“Our family dog died in December of 2020, and we got Enzo in early January. Six months later, I was reflecting on all the different emotions we’d had that year surrounding the heartbreak of losing one dog, and the challenges and joys that come with a new puppy,” Cortello recalled. “I was just messing around on my guitar and ended up writing ‘Angels with Four Paws and a Tail.’”
Within six weeks, Cortello had a whole collection of dog-themed songs, and the Canine Crooner was born.
Cortello’s album, “Dog Tales,” is one of 50 recently added to Crescent City Sounds, the Library’s locally sourced music streaming platform. Though he’s been playing music since he was 14 years old, “Dog Tales” is Cortello’s first foray into children’s music. Taking inspiration from Randy Newman’s iconic “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” Cortello said he wanted the album to be listenable for older audiences, too.
“It was important for me to produce something that works on both levels,” he said. “These songs are geared towards kids, but they’re sophisticated enough, musically, so they appeal to adults, too.”
Featuring Belinda Moody on upright bass, Chris Guccione on drums/percussion, and GRAMMY winner Craig Klein on trombone, “Dog Tales” is more than just a goofy album for kids. It’s a warm-hearted ode to man’s best friend, created by a group of seriously talented musicians. The album opens with “Go Adopt a Puppy,” quickly getting to the root mission of the Canine Crooner’s debut.
All proceeds from “Dog Tales” benefit the Louisiana SPCA, Zeus’ Rescue, and the Northshore Humane society. Cortello hopes the album will inspire families to adopt their next dog instead of buying from a breeder or pet store.
“Every one of the organizations that I worked with on the album and even others I’ve talked to, they all tell me they’re either at or beyond capacity right now,” Cortello said. “It’s about as dire as we’ve ever seen it. So, anything I can do to get the word out and advocate for spaying and neutering –– and for not buying puppies when there are ones out there already that need homes –– makes a difference.”
In addition to the proceeds from the album, all Canine Crooner performances benefit the three shelters.
Cortello describes himself as a life-long dog lover and said working on this project has been deeply fulfilling.
“It’s been such a joy, and I’m excited to see where it goes,” he said.
Dogs have always been a part of Cortello’s family, and adopting Enzo after their older dog passed away was a no-brainer, he said.
“We went one year without a dog, back in 2007-2008, and it was clear something was missing,” he said. “For us, having a dog completes our family.”
Enzo is featured on the cover of the album, where he made his musical debut, too.
“There’s one song called the ‘4th of July and New Years Eve’ that I was recording the demo tracks for in my home studio. Right when I hit the record button, he started barking in the background, and I knew I had to use it in the song, which is about fireworks,” Cortello said. “I call it his background vocals and we credited him on the album.”
Cortello initially heard about Crescent City Sounds when the Library was curating their first class of local artists, but the album wasn’t quite ready yet. When he heard submissions were open again this spring, he jumped on the chance to be a part of it.
“I noticed that there was no children’s music on the platform, and I just thought ‘Dog Tales’ would be such a cool addition to the catalog,” he said.
Over 100 artists submitted albums, and Cortello said he was ecstatic when he found out “Dog Tales” was picked.
“There are so many fantastic artists featured on the platform. And for me to be included in that list is just really a privilege,” he said.
Cortello said the project speaks to the Library’s dedication to New Orleans and to providing unique services to a unique city.
“People think of New Orleans music as just jazz or brass bands, but there’s so many different, diverse type of genres and talents here, and getting heard through the noises can be very difficult. And so, to have something that focuses specifically on New Orleans talent, I think that’s really fantastic,” he said.
“Dog Tales” is available for streaming now at crescentcitysounds.org. To find Cortello at a venue near you, visit his website, caninecrooner.com
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