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The River in Reverse

Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint

Verve/Universal

**½

Hell beat the levee, but New Orleans has been hurt before. So while this collaboration of Elvis Costello and Big Easy music man Allen Toussaint is post-Katrina commentary, some of the songs were written years earlier by the revered Toussaint. One of them is the spirited, relevant revisit to 1970's Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further, where an impoverished city wonders about a Liberty Bell that dings so wrong. New titles include the mixed-tempo Broken Promise Land and a melodically stuttering title track, where a government courts trust by mongering fear. Toussaint sings a little; Costello, in his attention-grabbing style, sings more. Over all, it just doesn't jiggle enough. As a genre, New Orleans R&B is funky-deep, and Costello, for all his earnest paddling, isn't much of a swimmer. -- B.W.

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