Nine months after Hurricane Katrina comes this welcome offspring, an unlikely pairing of musical masters united in anger and determination over what happened to New Orleans.
It's an inspired work. Much like Costello took to the formal melodicism of Burt Bacharach when they collaborated, he embraces the loose soulfulness of Toussaint, one of New Orleans' musical kings. The pianist Toussaint, the Crescent City Horns and guitarist Anthony "AB" Brown blend with Costello's backing band as if they've been working together for decades.
The disc seethes with anger at the Bush administration, particularly the title cut: "count your blessings when they ask permission, to govern with money and superstition." Just as impressive is the bubbling blues of "On Your Way Down" and "International Echo," seemingly a story of English boys trying to replicate music from the States, displaying an unusually open and playful Costello.
Costello's most recent musical trip down south, on The Delivery Man, proved an important tutorial. Although he sounds at home with the vocals, it would have been nice to hear Toussaint take the lead on more than one of the disc's 13 songs.
Otherwise, it's a true partnership. Seven songs are raided from Toussaint's back catalog, five are co-written and one, "The River in Reverse," is solely a Costello composition.
Toussaint, who has relocated to New York after his New Orleans home was badly damaged in the hurricane, renewed acquaintances with Costello on the benefit circuit last fall, leading to this project.
Its release proves at least one good thing came from that disaster.