The devastation of Hurricane Katrina has thrust New Orleans into the country’s consciousness like never before, and there have been a brace of albums highlighting the city’s music that have helped raise funds for rebuilding efforts there. Putumayo’s two releases take a different tack than others, but rightfully aim the town’s indefatigable partying spirit in appropriate directions: an album geared towards children and one focusing on the Christmas season.
The Christmas CD could be a children’s CD too, with the exception of Ingrid Lucia’s randy rendition of “”Zat you, Santa Claus?” Virtually all the songs are about kid-friendly aspects of the holiday, with little religious solemnity. New Orleans may not see much snow, but these songs show the holiday spirit does warm the place up. The Santa Claus Revelers make “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” hop, while The Heritage Hall Jazz Band livens up “Silver Bells.” In fact, with only one or two exceptions, the album is exclusively an upbeat celebration of Christmas, perfect for holiday partying.
The Playground album, like the rest of the series, is a compilation of songs from “regular” albums that lend themselves to listening by children. That means, first and foremost, a good dose of silliness—and silliness hangs like kudzu all over the city of Mardi Gras. Kermit Ruffins and a gaggle of kids argue about eating candy and ice cream versus pork and potatoes, the Meters visit the Audubon Zoo, and Lee Dorsey playfully tells us he’s “sitting in la la, waiting for my ya ya.”
It’s all undeniably fun. The album’s success, however, is tougher to predict given the notorious finicky-ness of pint-sized listeners. Still, Putumayo has pulled together a suitable celebration of New Orleans’ music with two effortlessly and infectiously joyous albums, despite the pall hanging over the city lately.