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CD Review: Preservation Hall Jazz Band

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The Deal: Mind-bending, fonky take on Dixieland by a galaxy of unlikely presenters including Merle Haggard, Tom Waits, Angelique Kidjo, Ani DiFranco, Steve Earle and Dr. John.

The Good: A benefit album to raise money for New Orleans' revered-but-financially-shabby Dixieland homestead, Preservation Hall, Preservation pairs a gathering of unlikely Dixielanders with the strutting rhythms that are the heartbeat of New Orleans. Brandi Carlile roughs up "The Old Rugged Cross" in a manner Levon Helm would approve of: throaty and throbbing, but still churchy. Tom Waits' "Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing," the earliest recorded Mardi Gras song, is a rump shaker that sounds like it was written for and by a tribe of Mardi Gras Indians, with Waits growling over a bubbling cauldron of horns. But it's hard to beat the hometown boys at their own game. Dr. John owns the fonk with his take on "Winin Boy." And even though Angelique Kidjo puts Edith Piaf to shame on "La Vie En Rose," it's N'awleans' own Terence Blanchard's trumpet lead that puts this one high in the Hall's rafters. The guests are impressive – even Steve Earle and Merle Haggard duke it out with Dixieland, but it's the music behind them that carries this show.

The Bad: Needs a warning label: Not your average old coots playing Dixieland. This music is vibrant, powerful stuff that deserves to be heard by a big audience of all generations.

The Verdict: A genre-bending triumph celebrating the diversity of roots music.

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