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Various Artists: Our New Orleans

Recorded in New York, Memphis, Houston and Maurice, La., in the two months following Hurricane Katrina, this benefit album documents some of New Orleans’ living treasures expressing their feelings in song for their beloved hometown.

Allen Toussaint opens the collection on an optimistic note with a new take on “Yes We Can Can,” his hit song for the Pointer Sisters in the early ’70s that now serves as a mantra for rebuilding the City That Care Forgot. Dr. John delivers a haunting rendition of “A World I Never Made,” which he originally cowrote with Doc Pomus in 1980 for B.B. King, and New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas channels Bessie Smith on the earthy “Back Water Blues,” accompanied by Toussaint on piano and Doyle Bramhall II on guitar. Pianist-singer Eddie Bo contributes a solo N’awlins-rumba rendition of “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In,” and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band speaks for the whole crew with an intimate, heartfelt rendition of “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?” Toussaint also turns in a mournful minor-key reading of the Professor Longhair anthem “Tipitina,” which he’s dubbed “Tipitina and Me.”

Emotional highpoints here include Randy Newman’s poignant and telling “Louisiana 1927,” performed at Avery Fisher Hall in New York with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Davell Crawford’s solo reading of his gospel number “Gather by the River,” Buckwheat Zydeco’s redemptive “Cryin’ in the Streets” (with Ry Cooder on slide guitar) and trumpeter Charlie Miller’s cathartic and slightly unhinged “Prayer for New Orleans.”

On the upbeat side are Dr. Michael White’s buoyant “Canal Street Blues,” the Wild Magnolia’s raucous, percussion-fueled throwdown on “Brother John Is Gone” and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s festive romp “My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now.”

Net proceeds for Our New Orleans will be donated to Habitat for Humanity to aide those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Originally Published