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Various Artists: VOW: Voice of the Wetlands

In January 2005 Louisiana blues guitarist Tab Benoit gathered an all-star crew of New Orleans’ finest, including Dr. John, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Cyril Neville, Anders Osborne, George Porter Jr. and drummer Johnny Vidacovich, for a session at Piety Studios in New Orleans. The resulting CD was intended to sound an alarm about the dangerous erosion of the wetlands, warning the world of the devastation that a major hurricane would visit on Louisiana now that the marshes and swamps weren’t there to slow the storm down. Eight months later, Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, proving Benoit to be prescient.

Dr. John carries the vocals on two thought-provoking pieces, “Clean Water” and the protest song “We Ain’t Gonna Lose No More (Without a Fight),” while Cyril takes over on the sweet “Louisiana Sunshine,” in which he sings about the sweeter aspects of the weather down there. Benoit and Osborne exchange some acoustic-guitar licks on “Kiddin’ Me,” while Benoit sings passionately on “Heart of Stone” as Dr. John tickles the ivories behind his rough-hewn vocals.

On the nonpolitical front are Earl King’s “Weary Silent Night,” sung by Dr. John, and Doug Kershaw’s unruly Cajun anthem “Louisiana Man.” And the collection closes on a festive note with Monk Boudreaux leading the crew through a Mardi Gras Indians staple, “Me Donkey Want Water.”

Originally Published