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Groove Interrupted: Loss, Renewal And The Music Of New Orleans by Keith Spera

Bill Milkowski reviews two new books about music in post-Katrina New Orleans

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Aaron Neville
Tab Benoit
Allen Toussaint closing the 2010 Montreal International Jazz Festival

Those who have spent any significant amount of time in New Orleans can attest to the fact that the real musical treasures are found off the beaten path. Keith Spera and John Swenson are both savvy writers who have infiltrated the inner circle of the Crescent City’s musical culture. Each has assembled a collection of intriguing essays that reveal secrets that exist well beyond Bourbon Street.

New Orleans native Spera, a longstanding music writer for The Times-Picayune who was also part of the newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Hurricane Katrina coverage team, focuses on tales of musicians confronting the challenges of trying to continue to make music in a post-Katrina environment. He covers those displaced New Orleanians forced to seek refuge in Houston, Austin, Nashville and other points around the country in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (known around New Orleans as “the Federal flood”). His profile of the cantankerous, Slidell-based blues guitarist-singer-fiddler Gatemouth Brown, who succumbed to lung cancer shortly after Katrina hit, is particularly moving, as is his eloquent recounting of Aaron Neville’s escape from his beloved hometown in the face of Katrina, his subsequent mourning over the loss of his wife to lung cancer in 2006 and triumphant return to New Orleans in 2008.

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