Various Artists

New Orleans Will Rise Again

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Several benefit albums have appeared since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region at the end of the summer of 2005, some of them necessarily somber affairs, shot through with a poignant resiliency, boundless pride, and even, at times, angry defiance. Night Train's New Orleans Will Rise Again, an intriguing collection of rare and unreleased 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s soul, R&B, and funk tracks, hits all of those themes with hindsight, but also with a playful and irreverent spirit that is close to the heart of what New Orleans music has always been about. Subtitled Songs of Faith, Hope and New Orlean-ness, it is in that very New Orlean-ness that makes this set so impressive. Few of the artists collected here will be recognized by anyone outside of the Crescent City (Aaron Neville and Ernie K-Doe are the biggest names), but this feisty little anthology isn't about star power as much as it is about New Orleans attitude. There is a lot to like here, ranging from James Black and Sister Mary's offhand and cautionary "There's a Storm in the Gulf" (which was recorded in the 1970s) that opens the album, to Bobby Jay's epic and autobiographical "Searching for the High Road," Jessie Hill's galloping, tuba-grounded tribute "Dedicated to Professor Longhair," Reggie Hall's loose and timeless "Shoo Fly," and Brotherhood's odd, improbable, and quite possibly apt "The Monkey That Became President." One of the most striking and powerful tracks is Black Blood & the Chocolate Pickles' "Black Blood in the Mississippi Mud," which is an ominous, prescient, angry, and funky tour de force that pulls no punches as a direct statement on racial politics, and it's difficult to believe that it wasn't recorded in the wake of Katrina. The tone of New Orleans Will Rise Again is by turns soothing, raucous, goofy, and ultimately hopeful. That these aren't new recordings doesn't diminish any of that. Thanks to the folks at Night Train for assembling this delightfully left-field and spunky collection.

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