Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Our New Orleans 2005 [Nonesuch, 2005]
Few in New Orleans foresaw the immensity of the flood that finally came, but most lived with the belief that sooner or later there'd be one, including the thousands of musicians employed by the city's tourist industry. History-hawking formalists as party-time pros, they generally found escapist denial more useful than existential courage in their line of work, and the likable Rounder charity comp A Celebration of New Orleans Music sums up how well they did and didn't entertain. These post-Katrina recordings are something else. Not all the artists transcend the pious traditionalism of their old city or their new label, but most arrive at a harder spiritual place. Dr. John's "World I Never Made" is his deepest track in decades. Irma Thomas's "Back Water Blues" is hers. Eddie Bo's "Saints" and John Brunious's "Do You Know What It Means" are frail, felt, fun, and wrenching. Punctuating Wardell Quezergue's full-orchestra "What a Wonderful World" is a piano solo Allen Toussaint localizes down to "Tipitina and Me." And hovering over the close, scythe at the ready, is Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927," the flood tale annotator Nick Spitzer reports has been sung aloud at bars all over the state ever since it surfaced in 1972. A