Various Our New Orleans 2005

Damn you Katrina. That femme fatale of a hurricane may have wreaked havoc on New Orleans, but it couldn’t destroy its musical soul. It has been the spawning ground of so many American musical forms, so it is hardly surprising that the continent’s musical community quickly rallied in support of the ravaged Crescent City. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting fundraising compilation than this one (proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity, who will help build homes for some of the displaced musicians there). Our New Orleans 2005 features both the city’s legendary figures (Dr. John, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Allen Toussaint, Buckwheat Zydeco, Preservation Hall Jazz Band) and its lesser-known treasures (Irma Thomas, Davell Crawford, Carol Fran), all on songs recorded within two months after the tragedy. The passion oozing from their performances is neatly captured by such notable producers as Ry Cooder, Joe Henry, Joel Dern and Hal Willner. Styles range through blues, zydeco, gospel, New Orleans funk, and traditional and contemporary jazz, without a dud in sight. Appropriately, Randy Newman closes out proceedings with his classic, "Louisiana 1927,” performed with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Add some fine artwork and liner notes and you have a benefit album meriting unreserved recommendation. The Big Easy will survive. (Nonesuch)