Ironically, the best argument for the music found on Treme: Music from the HBO Original Series is made in New Orleans' writer Joshua Jackson's annotation to one of the few non-New Orleans-associated songs on the set, Steve Earle's "This City." He writes: "Treme's music production team made a special effort to place songs in the series that followed the real timeline of late 2005-early 2006." Series co-creators David Simon and Eric Overmyer used the music in Treme in a similar fashion to the way they did in The Wire, but exponentially so. Music is a character in and of itself here: it paints places, and deepens perceptions about individual characters -- and Treme is arguably the most character-driven drama (deliberately at the expense of plot) ever to be shown on television. The music included here celebrates the musical diversity of New Orleans and Treme as traditions have been passed down from the neighborhood where jazz was born and where blues, Cajun, and folk musics have flourished to the present post-Katrina era. Beginning with the theme "Treme Song," written and performed by pianist John Boutté, through Troy (Trombone Shorty) and James Andrews' wild reading of "Ooh Poo Pah Doo," the Irma Thomas-Allen Toussaint collaboration on "Time Is on My Side," Tom McDermott and Lucia Micarelli's "New Orleans Blues," Kermit Ruffins' "Skokiaan," and the Rebirth, Treme, Soul Rebels, and Free Agents Brass Band performances, the music is saturated with joy, celebration, pain, sadness, soul, and the ferocity of defiance. This is underscored by three very different versions of "Indian Red" (the sacred song of New Orleans' Mardis Gras Indians). One is by Dr. John with a full-on band, another is by jazzman Donald Harrison, Jr. (Big Chief of the Congo Nation Indian Tribe), and another is by actor Clarke Peters -- who plays an Indian chief -- leading a chant with the heads of Mardis Gras Indian Tribes. One of the Treme's most famous sons, Louis Prima, is represented by "Buena Sera"; actor Steve Zahn and friends offer a delightful cover Smiley Lewis' "Shame, Shame, Shame"; and star Wendell Pierce sings a quietly beautiful "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You." Lil' Queenie & the Percolators' 1988 reading of "My Darlin New Orleans" closes it on a high note. As a soundtrack, this volume represents what's best about Treme; as a listening experience, it is pure pleasure.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek