When Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans in August of 2005, the physical toll was staggering. Over a year later the floodwaters are gone, the Superdome has been repaired and the residents of the Big Easy are struggling — slowly — to get back on their feet. But not all of the ravages of Katrina were physical, and a couple of New Orleans natives have taken it upon themselves to help address the psychological toll the storm took.
Black Water Rising takes on the traditional split single format, with San Antonio's Boxcar Satan trying their hand at a song by San Francisco's Graves Brothers Deluxe and vice versa. What sets this four-song EP apart is that proceeds from its sale are being donated to groups providing free mental health care to residents of the Gulf Coast. Stoo Odom of GBD and Patrick Sane of Boxcar Satan both hail from New Orleans, so the cause is near and dear to their hearts.
But don't buy Black Water Rising just for charity's sake; buy it because it's great, too. GBD does an excellent, understated acoustic bass and fuzz guitar rendition of "Shoot Down the Sun", and Boxcar Satan takes on "Legs Rub Together", showing off their mellow side for the first half of the track before bringing it to a rousing conclusion.
In addition to the regular split single fare, however, each band contributes a cover version of an old southern blues standard, and it is these songs that really make Black Water Rising stand out.
Boxcar Satan opens the disc with a raucous cover of "High Water Everywhere", a blues stomp by the legendary Delta blues guitarist Charley Patton. The Graves Brothers Deluxe do an uplifting cover of "Don't You Just Know It", a call-and-response R & B tune that was a Top Ten hit for New Orleans' own Huey "Piano" Smith in 1958.
The inclusion of the Patton and Smith tunes really rings true here, because Boxcar Satan and GBD are not only paying tribute to the city of New Orleans in its time of need; they're paying tribute to the indomitability of the spirit in the face of crushing adversity, and if that ain't "the blues", I don't know what is.
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