A Tribute to Fats Domino


Goin' Home: A Tribute To Fats Domino

A first-tier musical icon in a city that breeds 'em in batches and takes that sort of thing seriously, rock 'n' roll pioneer Fats Domino was among the thousands thought swept away by Hurricane Katrina. Somebody even scrawled "RIP Fats" on the wreckage of his house in New Orleans' devastated Lower Ninth Ward. He finally turned up days after being plucked from his roof by boat, a glimmer of hope amid the desolation—as is this first-rate, two-disc tribute to the 79-year-old Fat Man (proceeds go to Tipitina's Foundation, which is helping rebuild New Orleans' music community).

No less than John Lennon starts things out with a rousing, 1975 version of "Ain't That a Shame," followed by a slew of smartly chosen heavy hitters from a cross section of genres, often in intriguing match-ups with Crescent City musicians. Paul McCartney, for instance, does a spot-on Fats vocal impression on "I Want to Walk You Home" while Allen Toussaint mans the 88s. "Whole Lotta Loving" gets a sizzling, funked-up treatment from Lenny Kravitz teamed with the Rebirth Brass Band and the JB Horns. Robbie Robertson and Galactic give a languid, swampy atmosphere to the suicidal "Going to the River" before switching on the funk the second time through. The title track gets a regal blues remake from guitarist B.B. King, conspiring with a simmering Dumpstaphunk and a stellar horn section featuring Trombone Shorty, jazz saxophonist Donald Harrison, and longtime Fats associate Herbert Hardesty on tenor.

For every faithful rendition of a Fats nugget, like Tom Petty's sparkling "I'm Walkin'," there are striking revisions, none more so than the amazing version of "I'm Gonna Be a Wheel Someday," the killer Meters rhythm section of Ziggy Modeliste and George Porter Jr. interlaced with Herbie Hancock's glistening jazz piano phrases. Also in that category is Toots & the Maytals' soulful reggae interpretation of "Let the Four Winds Blow," and Willie Nelson's wonderful reading of "I Hear You Knockin'" with its insidiously reserved Texas swing tickled by Jon Cleary's whorehouse piano workout. For all involved, this is clearly an inspired labor of love, not just for the Fat Man, but for the city and its enduring but fragile legacy.