City That Care Forgot

He's not talking about Cleveland. City That Care Forgot is the New Orleans soulman's impassioned lament about the natural destruction of Hurricane Katrina and the man-made tragedy of the aftermath. Over ominous funk ("Land Grab"), gospel-inflected blues ("You Might Be Surprised") and horn-boosted R&B ("Time for a Change," featuring Eric Clapton), Dr. John's bourbon-and-sandpaper vocals reflect the bitterness of a man who can sense that "the smell of death still hangs on the honeysuckle vine." With watery guitars and atmospheric percussion, the title track conjures the loneliness of a place "where music and laughter once filled the air." His anger and sadness are clearly heartfelt, though the lyrics often detour into sloganeering like "The truth will set you free." But when the maestro takes a wide-angle snapshot of his hometown, he conjures up some thrilling moments. "You Might Be Surprised" is a grand Fifties-style ballad infused with rich Ellington-esque horns and gallows humor: "Life is a near-death experience," he quips. It's a bittersweet dispatch from just above the waterline.