N'Awlinz: Dis Dat Or D'Udda

Throughout the years, the music of Louisiana in general and New Orleans in particular has grown self-referential to the point of annoyance. One more song about Mardi Gras could send a sane person scurrying to the nearest monastery. N'Awlinz: Dis Dat or D'udda, Dr. John's latest hometown tribute, may be the tipping point. On paper, it's hard to argue with a disc boasting solid contributions from drummer Earl Palmer and keyboardist Willie Tee, plus cameos from Eddie Bo, Snooks Eaglin, Cyril Neville, Willie Nelson, Randy Newman and B.B. King. But Stewart Levine's fussy production entombs the spontaneous, unkempt majesty of New Orleans music in eerily lifeless gloss. Beneath its slick exterior, this album is a well-intentioned elegy for a waning generation of musicians, yet it is more moribund than festive. From a virtually unrecognizable "When the Saints Go Marching In" to "I'm Goin' Home," Dr. John and company don't let the good times roll. Instead, they somberly put them to rest.