Various Artists – Preservation: An Album to Benefit Preservation Hall & The Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program

January 01, 1970

(Preservation Hall Recordings)


All-star duet albums are nothing new of course, although in
most cases they’re offered in an attempt to inject a certain hipness factor
into the musician who’s the object of the adulation. And while it’s generally
an admirable attempt to bring some recognition and appreciation, all too often
the guest stars steal all the attention and usurp the spotlight. The results
reflect the talents of those making the cameo appearances rather than the
artist who was cause for the effort in the first place. The recent star-studded
summit sponsored by the Blind Boys of Alabama offers all the proof needed.


Happily, that’s not the case with this tribute to
Preservation Hall and its resident musical ensemble, The Preservation Hall Jazz
Band, one of New Orleans’ – and the nation’s – most venerable musical
institutions.  While the guest list is
well stocked with A List players (Steve Earle, Merle Haggard, Tom Waits, Ani
DiFranco, Brandi Carlile and Richie Havens to name but a few), there’s no
attempt to compromise any Dixieland designs or to force the guests’ signature
styles on any of these classic turns. These are sprawling big band
performances, aired with authenticity and a knowing sense of Beale and Bourbon Street
tradition. Consequently, Jason Isbell’s “Blue Sky” sounds like a vintage big
band recording, while Carlile’s “Old Rugged Cross” is as weathered and
reverential as an age-old spiritual. Waits’ read of the traditional New Orleans standard “Tootie Ma Was A Big Fine Thing”
finds a certain symmetry with Dr. John’s “Winin’ Boy,” just as the late Louie
Armstrong take on “Rockin’ Chair” keeps the Crescent City
connection intact. Notably, the Blind Boys of Alabama play their guest role
with aplomb, turning in the only steal stealing performance of the set with
their version of the Gospel-stamped “There Is A Light.”


A brassy, classy collaboration, Preservation goes a long way towards accomplishing all its title


: “There Is A Light,” “”Rocking’ Chair,” “Old Rugged Cross”


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