Robbie Robertson has found himself — in New Orleans. It has been four years since the ex-Band guitarist’s first solo album, which owed too much of its flavor to appearances by distinctive artists like Peter Gabriel and U2. For Storyville, Robertson has accrued a guest list composed of New Orleans cult figures rather than rock stars — aside from several Neville brothers, there’s no one here you’re likely to see at next year’s Grammy awards — and used them to color and complement his material rather than overwhelm it. The result is a record that’s more consistent, more relaxed, and more fun than its predecessor. Intended as a sort of Big Easy street opera, Storyville shifts effortlessly from the rousing marches of ”What About Now” and ”Night Parade” to the bayou boogie of ”Go Back to Your Woods” to the eerie nostalgia of ”Sign of the Rainbow.” Some of the pomposity that marred the last album’s lyrics is still here; try listening to a line like ”She was like a young Georgia O’Keeffe from another time” without squirming. This time, though, the music glows so brightly you can forgive Robertson his lapse. A-
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