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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Our New Orleans album cover

Album of Dreams

~ December 6 release~

Except for the terrible loss that prompted and inspired this amazing album, I'd hail Our New Orleans as 'glorious', but that sounds too cheerful.

On the other hand, why not? It *is* a glorious album: Generous 16 tracks by giants of the New Orleans music community, gloriously produced and glorifying "this great fonky old gumbo of New Orleans' music".

It's a benefit album - what I usually run a mile from - released by the artiste-encrusted Nonesuch. By giving a home to Bill Frisell and Laura Veirs to name but two, this label can do no wrong.

And speak about an ill wind: one heck of a Christmas present, to boot.

Net proceeds of sales go to Habitat for Humanity International including funds to musicians who themselves lost homes.

At which cue, also a shout out to parent company Warner Bros. Records for

But enough toadying and waffling: Do it. Dive around the Nonesuch site (don't be puzzled by the bizarre sparseness), click wherever, check out the goodies, harken to the songs, groove to the video. Feel the vibrance and energy.

Nothing I can write here will speed you more determinedly to snatch up this gem than sampling it for yourself.

From start to finish, this is one class act album, from the stunning musical line-up to the masterly choice of Nick Spitzer for the liner notes. Only that measured Brit prose will do here - precise and even-emotioned while packing in the facts:

  • Allen Toussaint: "... escaped from his drowning city with little more than the clothes he had on ... Dressed in a new suit with matching silk tie pocket-handkerchief, Toussaint added, 'But the spirit didn't drown. I still have my music. Give me a hammer. I'm ready to do my part.' "
  • The great Uptown Bo Dollis "... in a complex call-and-response memorializing a comrade lost on the 'battlefield' - the cityscape of black New Orleans."
  • "Dr Michael White reads the traditional Canal Street Blues in a joyous mood, despite having lost a collection of antique instruments, original Jelly Roll scores, and more to the depths of an expanded Lake Pontchartrain."

  • First-rate - exactly what I want and expect from the creator of the inspired must-hear American Routes (and no mean producer of tracks on this very album).

    Speaking of which, there are no duds but there are very definitely some tracks that absolutely soar:

    Dr. John on 'World I Never Made' : that voice as furry and warm as ever, piano subtle as can be. No one sings "The late show is over" *quite* so convincingly.

    Back Water Blues: Oh my goodness, Soul Queen Irma Thomas ("her home and her club both under water") giving Bessie Smith's 1927 classic *such* a treatment, and Doyle Bramhall II's clever guitar reprising memories of Norm Greenbaum's Spirit in the Sky. A definite "I-need-that-album" track.

    Buckwheat Zydeco: The Man, 'Cryin' in the Streets', produced by Ry Cooder with, of course, a low-key heart-wrenching solo by the maestro.

    Canal Street Blues: a track that has me wondering why the deuce my collection is so criminally thread-bare of decent trad'.

    L'Ouragon: Another foot-tapper swooner. I jam with some fiddlers and fellow fretters and I know their *exact* expressions when I play them Michael and David Doucet's respective solos.

    What a Wonderful World: I know, I know. That hoary over-done chestnut. What and who could *possibly* breathe even a whiff of a convincing crotchet into the old ham? Lend Don Harrison's alto sax an ear.

    Randy Newman: Deliberately last, I suspect. What more fitting than that bad boy Newman's moving, sublime 'Louisiana 1927'? New meaning, new life and added poignancy under the lush accompaniment of the Louisiana Philharmonic. Its three minutes is gone too fast and is alone worth the effort to track down this album.

    Traditional finale? Flowery summary wheeling out the usual suspects - "inspired ... cajun-hot ... noble ... worthy cause" - closing with judicious genuflect in direction of fragrant press officer and leaden hint to keep 'em coming.

    Bleagghh: No time for such fancy pants pandering.

    I'm doling out another nectar tipple of Maker's Mark and ramming this musical treat right back in the turntable. And I advise you do likewise.

    Not a tribute per se, but if you like the New Orleans sound check out a download here:

    From, "Funeral for a Friend."
    Am *trying* to navigate this odd site.
    Is it I Shall Not Be Moved" we're meant to be hearing?
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