Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint The River in Reverse

Costello has never shied away from collaborations that hold the potential to stretch his own talents, and this partnership with New Orleans R&B legend Toussaint is his most intriguing since he teamed up with Burt Bacharach. Largely inspired by Hurricane Katrina, The River in Reverse bears all the sonic hallmarks of classic ’70s soul — thanks to producer Joe Henry — forcing Costello to rise to the challenge vocally. More often than not he succeeds, mostly due to the dark undertone that runs through all 13 tracks, half of which were penned by Toussaint alone. A new version of his classic "On Your Way Down” sets the tone of never taking anything for granted, reaching a peak with Costello’s stirring title track. Railing like Job at a seemingly ambivalent higher power, Costello steps up to speak for all of New Orleans: "What would I take in exchange for my soul?/Would I notice when it was sold?” The song may be the most powerful statement on the album, but other tracks like "Broken Promise Land” and "Tears, Tears, and More Tears” illuminate the plight of the city just as well as the unbelievable news footage did. It’s a rare occasion nowadays when an album perfectly captures the mood of a specific time and place. Even after one listen, it’s clear The River in Reverse will stand for the heartless treatment the people of New Orleans have endured, as well as the hope they still possess. (Universal)