In another story of the musical aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 68-year-old New Orleans songwriting legend Allen Toussaint washed up in New York, where he fell in with the comparatively sprightly 51-year-old Elvis Costello.
The two performed at some benefit concerts, whereupon the irrepressibly enthusiastic and possibly workaholic Costello (this is his second album this year) thought it was about time someone recorded a Toussaint songbook, and it might as well be him. Backed by a classy band (Costello's Imposters, supplemented by a horn section under Toussaint's direction), they have created a rich, warm, live-sounding concoction that is more than mere tribute. If these are hardly the definitive versions — Costello's sometimes rough, overwrought vocals sitting uneasily with Toussaint's light, funky touch — the album takes flight on a clutch of soulful originals, on which two great songwriters tackle the aftermath of disaster, coming on like punk soul brothers.
Anger and disgust are among Costello's strongest emotional suits, and threatening horns drive him along as he sneers at political betrayal on "Broken Promise Land," while Toussaint's delicate piano underpins the hopeless bafflement of "Ascension Day."