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Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint 

The River in Reverse (Verve)

After Katrina washed legendary songwriter-producer-pianist Allen Toussaint out of his New Orleans home and into New York, he and Elvis Costello decided to cut a record. Their combined bands -- Costello's Imposters and Toussaint's horn section and guitarist -- laid down 13 tracks last October, fresh from the storm.

Toussaint brings out Costello's funky side on their five collaborations, while Costello wrote the title track and the rest of the album. The River in Reverse includes covers of several of Toussaint's lesser-known hits, the best of which is "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?" -- originally written for Lee Dorsey. The song oozes with grit, punchy horns, snaky organ, and amusing lyrics.

Costello steps out on "The River in Reverse," the keynote song of the album. "I don't see how it can get much worse," he sings. "What can we do to send the river in reverse?" An emotional tour de force, it's his most meaningful performance since 1979's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding."

Whether it's inspired renditions ("On Your Way Down," "Ascension Day," "Freedom for the Stallion") or ferocious collaborations ("Broken Promise Land," "Six-Fingered Man"), Costello and Toussaint always find the groove. Together the two musical giants deliver a scorching R&B session that'll move you and keep you moving.

Speaking of CD Review

More by Steve Bloom

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