You are sure to have heard this before, but New Orleans has changed since Katrina and the oil spill isn't helping much. Wandering around the French Quarter, there are fewer musicians and artists showcasing their talents and even fewer tourists admiring them. And yet, New Orleaneans continue to maintain that spirit that only a city who is used to being an underdog, used to fighting nature for their homes and used to taking a full week off from work every year for Mardi Gras can really have. Why do you think the Saints Superbowl win was such a milestone? The Saints spoke for most New Orleaneans when they implied they were still alive, fighting and important as ever. Five years after the hurricane, today, musicians from various genres got together, thanks to Air Traffic Control and Future of Music Coalition, to pay homage to a unique culture with a compilation of influential New Orleans grooves called Dear New Orleans.
In an article on the release by Rolling Stone, MC5's Wayne Kramer mentioned that, "Anyone that calls themselves a musician owes a debt to New Orleans." Jim James from My Morning Jacket said in Planet Green Discovery that, "New Orleans music is so deep in your blood you don't even know it's there until you hear that sound. " Dear New Orleans is that sound. It is easy to be a bit skeptical of anyone covering meaningful classics - many of us cringed at the thought of soundtracks from Across the Universe and I'm Not There - but there is a passion in this album that is palpable. From When the Levee Breaks by Nicole Atkins and Bonerama (#28/31 tracks!) to a live version of Carnival Time done by My Morning Jacket, it is easy to transplant yourself from a dimly lit cubicle in NYC to Bourbon Street (or even Lake Pontchartrain).
The album was released for sale today at dearneworleansmusic.org as well as all the other standard vehicles of digital music distribution (iTunes, Rhapsody, eMusic, etc). A free taste of the album is available at the above mentioned link, but remember, support of Dear New Orleans goes forth to support New Orleans based NPOs like Sweet Home New Orleans and Gulf Restoration Network. The album comes with a bonus booklet, with a letter to New Orleans - inspiration for the compilation title and taken from the "Dear America" letter written shortly after Katrina. This is the first bit of the letter. The rest is in the liner notes and worth a read.
Dear New Orleans,
You know how when something terrible happens to
an acquaintance, and words are inadequate, all you
can say is, “Sorry?” And you feel lame for saying it,
but hope that the word itself somehow is enough?