Love, Life, and Faith – 4 stars
Southern Nights – 3.5 stars
Legendary N.O. producer’s second and third albums show city’s resilience
As the cradle of jazz, New Orleans’ greatest musical son will always be Louis Armstrong, but prolific pianist/producer/songwriter Allen Toussaint is a close second. The main architect of Crescent City R&B, from its second-line beat to its laidback strut, Toussaint worked with Lee Dorsey, Irma Thomas, The Band and Elvis Costello. During the ’70s he cut his own records. While employing The Meters to lay down that Big Easy funk foundation, it’s not all festivities and leisure on Love, Life, and Faith. Toussaint waxes socially conscious on “Victims of the Darkness,” but he balances it with the salacious wiggle of funk classic “Soul Sister.” Southern Nights makes for a psychedelic affair as a tactile haze surrounds crisp cuts like “Last Train.” The title track’s motif swells like a chorus of frogs on a muggy night, proving that Toussaint’s resiliently upbeat sound is inseparable from New Orleans.