I was about 13 years old when I visited New Orleans. I was with my parents, visiting family in Alabama and Louisiana, and I was in the throes of a Harry Connick, Jr., fixation, so it was a well-timed visit. I remember that Connick’s father, then the District Attorney of New Orleans, was on the T.V. news due to allegations of corruption. I remember the cute bellhop at the Marie Antoinette Hotel. I remember a riverboat to Chalmette. I remember walking through Jackson Square in a light rain while a group of young boys played jazz on a street corner. I remember walking a few paces behind my parents because I didn’t want them to see me crying. New Orleans was so true to my daydreams of it that it overwhelmed me.
But the best memory I have of New Orleans was visiting Preservation Hall. Even though it’s just off of Bourbon Street, the Hall seems like its own universe in the midst of the lights, tourists and infamous debauchery that punctuates (or blankets, depending on what time of the year you’re there) Bourbon Street. It’s boards are worn, and it is narrow. The benches inside are hard and uncomfortable. And in the summer, packed in so close with so many other bodies, it only takes a few minutes to become covered in a heavy sheen of sweat. But once the Preservation Hall Jazz Band starts to play, none of that matters. The world becomes music and joy.
Even though I haven’t been back to N’awlins, my memories of and love for the city have endured, and I was greatly relieved when Preservation Hall survived Hurricane Katrina intact. And you can bet I’ll be laying down some cash for Preservation, an album to benefit the Hall, being released on Mardi Gras, February 16th. If it wasn’t enough that the proceeds from the album will keep the Hall going, check out the roster of people who stopped by to help out the effort:
- Andrew Bird
- Paolo Nutini
- Tom Waits
- Yim Yames
- Del McCoury
- Ani DiFranco
- Pete Seeger & Tao Rodriguez-Seeger
- Jason Isbell
- Brandi Carlile
- Richie Havens
- Merle Haggard
- Blind Boys of Alabama
- Dr. John
- Amy LaVere
- Steve Earle
- Cory Chisel
- Buddy Miller
- Angelique Kidjo with Terence Blanchard
Even Louis Armstrong makes an appearance.
If you somehow remain unconvinced as to how great this album will be, check out the preview video.
They are even generously streaming the album at the official website: Preservation: A Benefit Album