March 2006

Various Artists - Our New Orleans 2005
Nonesuch 79934-2
Format: CD
Released: 2005

by Eric Hetherington

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***

The long history of music in New Orleans has produced music with a family resemblance, but, like real family resemblance, it is hard to describe. A benefit album for Habitat for Humanity, Our New Orleans 2005 features some of the best-known musicians from New Orleans playing newly recorded songs. The collection succeeds not just as a collection of songs, but as a real album with a beginning, middle and end. It opens with Allen Toussaint's "Yes We Can Can" and moves through such acts as Dr. John, Buckwheat Zydeco, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and ends with Randy Newman and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra performing "Louisiana 1927."

There are lesser-known acts here as well that also turn in accomplished work. Dr. Michael White, a respected proponent of classic jazz who lost instruments and irreplaceable original scores from Jelly Roll Morton during hurricane Katrina, gives us a version of King Oliver's "Canal Street Blues" that features his deft clarinet playing. I was unfamiliar with some of the acts on the disc, such as Beausoleil, but in each case the performances served to whet my appetite.

The album lives up to the quality that I have come to expect from Nonesuch Records. The packaging is top-notch, with photographs and thoughtful essays. While the sound on the disc varies from track to track, it is never less than very good.

Good music, good sound, and a good cause make this an easy recommendation.