Album: Various artists

Our New Orleans 2005/ A Celebration of New Orleans Music, NONESUCH/ROUNDER
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The Independent Culture

Their federal government may not have been in too great a hurry to help out the people of New Orleans, but the local musicians have been hard at work since Katrina hit, these two benefit albums arriving closely in the wake of Dr John's Sippiana Hericane mini-album.

Actually, that's only half true. Rounder's A Celebration of New Orleans Music isold Crescent City tracks drawn from the label's back catalogue - though none the worse for that, ranging from Jelly Roll Morton through Irma Thomas and Aaron Neville to Harry Connick Jr and Branford Marsalis. It's a little short on cajun and zydeco, though the recent revival of the marching-band tradition is well represented by the ReBirth and Dirty Dozen Brass Bands, and it incorporates pieces from the two late giants of New Orleans piano, James Booker and Professor Longhair.

The equivalent piano masters on Nonesuch's Our New Orleans 2005 are Allen Toussaint and Dr John, who both pull out the stops. Toussaint's "Yes We Can Can" opens proceedings with a fine, positive statement of intent, its plea for brotherhood and mutual aid couched in New Orleans slinky funk, while his instrumental "Tipitina And Me" pays homage to Longhair's pioneering rumba-rock piano style.

Dr John's moody 3am blues "World I Never Made" uses his own addiction as an analogy for the situation facing the wider community, "lost in a world that's just too cold and deep" - a liquid metaphor picked up by Irma Thomas in the gripping swamp-blues "Back Water Blues", one of the outstanding performances.

There's an equally compelling performance from Clifton Chenier's zydeco heir-apparent Buckwheat Zydeco. Elsewhere, the full range of the city's music is displayed in all its diversity: exuberant Mardi Gras Indian chanting from The Wild Magnolias; equally exuberant marching-band music from The Dirty Dozen Brass Band; purist trad jazz from Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Dr Michael White.

Capping it all is a version of "Louisiana 1927" on which Randy Newman is accompanied by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. What resonates most, particularly in view of the dismal political response to the catastrophe, is its plaintive chorus: "Louisiana, Louisiana, they're trying to wash us away". This album demonstrates, in part, why that would be a tragedy as unthinkable as allowing Abu Simbel to be submerged.

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Yes We Can Can', 'Back Water Blues', 'Louisiana 1927', 'Cryin' In The Streets'

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