Buy “Allen Toussaint, John, Irma Thomas, Davell Crawford, Buckwheat Zydeco, Michael White, Wild Magnolias, Eddie Bo, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Beausoleil – Our New Orleans Benefit Album for the Gulf Coast – Music” Online

Our New Orleans: Benefit Album for the Gulf Coast

I bought my first copy of this CD in December, 2005 from a picnic table in front of one of the newly reopened small shops on Magazine Street (in New Orleans), where it was proudly displayed next to the baseball shirt with the words, “I drove my Chevy to the levy, but the levy was gone. ” These newly offered products symbolized resilience to those of us who didn’t flee when the going got rough. While I can appreciate that some reviewers felt that the music on this CD was somewhat of a downer, likening it to the accompaniment of a funeral march, to me that is not the overall feeling I get when listening to this CD. Much like The Blues (meaning the music genre, not the emotional state), some of the pieces herein lament the loss of a unique city that once was. A part of that beloved and unique cultural entity was lost forever on August 29, 2005. But this CD was created at a time when nearly one third of the population had just returned to NOLA, and that one-third was filled with hope, determination, and a love for their city that ran so deep that we were willing to make do and live without many modern conveniences (electricity, for one) in order to persevere and breathe life back into our ravaged city. That is the message I get, deep in my soul, from this music. It is a message of hope, determination, perseverance, and the absolute certainty that we would prevail, colored with a bit of mourning for that piece of culture that is undeniably lost forever. To my ears and my soul, this CD is uplifting, not a downer. Case in point : Allen Toussaint’s, “Yes, We Can,” and the ubiquitous New Orleans favorites, “What A Wonderful World,” and, “When The Saints Go Marching In,” performed by Donald Harrison with The Wardell Quezergue Orchestra and Eddie Bo, respectively. Perhaps the phrase, “funeral music,” used by many of the reviewers who’ve come before me here warrants some explanation for those nave to the old New Orleans tradition of the Second Line. In old NOLA, though a funeral is, of course, a time for mourning and closure, it is also a time to rejoice in the experience of having known the soul who has just departed this Earth. As such, it is common practice for processioners to walk through the deceased’s neighborhood, following a small brass marching band, singing and dancing (this is called a Second Line), allowing people who knew the person and those who didn’t to hear the music, come out of their homes, and join the parade of revelers. This is how traditional New Orleanians payed homage to the dead, a tribute in the form of a musical parade. So, does this CD, in some parts, feel like a New Orleans style funeral? Yes, but a New Orleans style funeral is unique, a living and breathing thing. My favorite track is, “Backwater Blues,” performed by Irma Thomas, originally composed and performed by Bessie Smith and later sung by Dinah Washington. Although this song was reportedly written for the folks of Cincinnati after The 1927 Great Mississippi Flood, the lyrics eerily describe the situation I experienced in my tiny boat ferrying survivors from their rooftops to the relative safety of the I-10/610 interchange during our own Search and Rescue mission before the arrival of federal authorities (aptly dubbed, “New Orleans Residents Rescue Their Neighbors,” by NPR’s Democracy Now). Amazing that history repeats itself almost to a, “T. “As one who really, “Knows What It Means,” this CD symbolizes not just the grief of a lifestyle and culture lost, but the resilience of that culture and the strength of those who were willing to get up and DO something to restore as much of what once was as is humanly possible. This remains one of my favorite CDs of all time, and is one of my best go-to gifts because it is nearly universally enjoyable. Check it out!

Product Description Nonesuch Records is releasing a benefit album of newly recorded songs featuring artists from the New Orleans music community, across a wide variety of styles to document the depth, richness and profound musicality of that unique city. Funds from the sale of the record, titled Our New Orleans, will be donated to Habitat For Humanity to aid those affected by the recent Hurricane Katrina disaster. CD features Allen Toussaint, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Wild Magnolias, Buckwheat Zydeco, Randy Newman, and others. 2005. Amazon.com Hurricane Katrina may have devastated New Orleans and surrounding Gulf communities in 2005, but it was also a forceful reminder of the Crescent City’s world renowned status as the epicenter of much American musical heritage. This benefit album (all net proceeds will be donated to the local relief efforts of Habitat for Humanity, with a portion specifically set aside to provide housing for local musicians left homeless by the disaster) picks up that latter thread, a sometimes bittersweet reminder of how deepy ingrained, yet all-too-fragile, that cultural legacy really is. Allen Toussaint’s succulent reworking of his “Yes We Can Can” sets a rhythmic, optimistic tone that parallels his city’s own historical resilience, while Dr. John turns in a bluesy, laid-back “World I Never Made” that’s a sharp contrast to the flashes of anger he showed on Tab Benoit’s earlier benefit collection, Voice of the Wetlands. Irma Thomas gives a swampy, timely edge to Bessie Smith’s “Back Water Blues” while others pay tribute to the region’s history of gospel (Davell Crawford, Eddie Bo), indigenous cajun folk (Buckwheat Zydeco, Beausolei, Carol Fran) and legacy as the Birthplace of Jazz (vibrantly disparate contributions from Dr. Michael White, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the venerable Preservation Hall Jazz Band). The Wild Magnolias’ medley “Brother John Is Gone/Herc-Jolly-John” is a joyous, African-rooted gumbo of musical possibilities, while Donald Harrison’s sax work with The Wardell Querzergue’s Orchestra’s on “What a Wonderful World” is a fine preamble for Toussaint’s elegiac solo piano rendition of “Tipitina and Me.” Randy Newman’s closer, a melancholic new version of Good Old Boys’ “Louisiana 1927,” is a tribute to his own N.O. roots whose refrain–“Louisiana, they’re trying to wash us away”–is also a forceful, tragic reminder that history does indeed repeat. –Jerry McCulley


Our New Orleans: Benefit Album for the Gulf Coast Review

Yes, there is a melancholy, tragic quality to this collection. The emotional honesty and pain of the artists, all of whom experienced great personal loss in Katrina, is almost unbearable in places. And yet there is a toughness, a fierce determination to rise again, that shows through. New Orleans, America’s great city of celebration, is too deep and rich to simply party as an escape from the agony. This music, like this city, confronts the pain honestly, but in the end if certain it will survive. Especially beautiful is when this exercise takes on a spiritual cast, as the singers lay their burdens down at the feet of the Lord and trust in his goodness. As one who lives in New Orleans and is working with Katrina victims on a daily basis, this all rings very true. The sad but hopeful tone of Allen Toussaint “Yes We Can Can,” Davell Crawford “Gather By the River” is just beyond description. Two of the lovliest songs I have ever heard. Beausoleil “L’ouragon” and Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927” are also highlights. But frankly there isn’t a week song on the disc. Certainly my favorite album of the year. -Read Reviews-

You may choose to buy this album because it’s the “right thing to do,” but you’ll listen to it because the music won’t let you go. There is just enough of a blend of musical genres on this album to appeal to everyone, without the album “selling out” or losing its impact. I grew up in southwest Louisiana, but now as an adult, listening to this music, I really “get it. ” The patience of the musicians, crafting their songs like they’re handling newborn babies, is phenomenal. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’d have to lean toward L’Ouragon; it reminds me so much of the Cajun street dances when I was a teen. It looks like I’m going to be expanding my music collection to include more albums by a number of these artists. Absolutely incredible.

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