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After the Levees Broke

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Album Review

There were so many blues and country songs written after the 1927 Mississippi River floods that there have been entire collections compiled of them. Nearly two years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, stretching from Biloxi to western Louisiana and all but obliterating New Orleans through a combination of bad luck, poor design, and bureaucratic idiocy, the Crescent City was still only barely on its feet when local legend Marva Wright released After the Levees Broke. Likely the first album by a New Orleans artist to fully address the storm's aftermath, After the Levees Broke keeps the finger-pointing down to a minimum, preferring to make its case in more subtle fashion by including suddenly pertinent covers of classics like Willie Nelson's "Crazy" (transformed into a love affair with a tempestuous city) and a complete recasting of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." In this context, Wright transforms Bruce Hornsby's "The Way It Is" from a well-meaning but somewhat facile take on racism from a middle-class white guy's perspective into a fiery, soulful refrain. More pointed original tunes, most written by producer and bassist Benny Turner, include the powerful "The Levee Is Breaking Down" and "Katrina Blues," so far the closest this disaster has come to the sort of first-person blues spawned by the 1927 floods. Far from the bon temps roulez vibe of Wright's earlier work, After the Levees Broke is both timely and deeply traditional.


Born: March 20, 1948 in New Orleans, LA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Down in Louisiana, Marva Wright was called the Blues Queen. Fans of her energy-filled performances, both live and recorded, called her a lot of other things, too, like "Marvalous Marva." The "bluesiana" numbers she favored were a strong showcase for her dynamic, gospel-rooted voice. One listen would be enough to convince any newcomer of her strengths, which was surprising in light of the fact that the vocalist was a late bloomer who didn't turn professional until 1987, when she was creeping up on...
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After the Levees Broke, Marva Wright
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