A while back, in a post I can’t seem to find now, I sang the praises of Allen Toussaint’s “Tipitina and Me,” which appeared on the Our New Orleans fundraiser CD. I was interested to learn that one of the songs on the much-anticipated Toussaint/Elvis Costello collaboration CD, The River In Reverse (recorded in New Orleans, not long after Katrina), was this very song — with lyrics added on by Costello. (According to the cover story on Costello & Toussaint in the current No Depression, Costello’s adding these lyrics was sort of the ice-breaker to the collaboration.) Most interesting for my purposes is that Costello quasi-quotes “St. James Infirmary,” singing at one point, “Let her go, let her go, God bless her….”
This is the only song on the CD I’ve heard all the way through. I’m a huge Costello fan, and a Toussaint fan, too, but the truth is none of the snippets I’ve heard from the disc have really caught my attention. And I have to say that, despite my Costello fandom, I find his lyrics here a totally unnecessary tack-on to a beautiful ad moving piece of music. (As you may know, the song is basically “Tipitina,” Professor Longhair’s famous tune, done in a minor key, a shift that alters things into a mood that somehow captures post-Katrina-ness perfectly, for me anyway.) I was pretty interested in hearing “Ascension Day” because, while I haven’t heard anybody else remark on this, I feel I’m able to hear some musical nods to “St. James Infirmary” in “Tipitina and Me.” In any case, the full passage goes: “Let her go, let her go, God bless her. She hasn’t been gone long enough for me to miss her — ‘cept for every minute of every hour of every when I wish I could possess her.”
Come on. Is it just me being in a bad mood, or isn’t that sort of, you know, terrible?
Maybe the rest of the CD is better. Here’s an NPR piece about it. And also just to reiterate: “Tipitina and Me” is fantastic, and you should check it out.