Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino

Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino doesn't just bring the stars out - an entire constellation forms to pay tribute to one of music's greatest luminaries. The end result of these 30 luscious tribute tracks is a 2-CD collection that amazingly captures the wide influence and essential contributions of this consummate songwriter and performer.
The album features an equal amount of the unexpected and the obvious. Witness some of the most over-the-top collaborations you've ever seen: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band's honking NOLA authenticity unites Joss Stone's sultry crooning and Buddy Guy's piercing guitar; ReBirth Brass Band lays the impossibly funky foundation for a team of performers including Maceo Parker, Lenny Kravitz, Fred Wesley, and Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews; Olu Dara's rich, murky voice romps with The Natchezippi Band and saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr; and Herbie Hancock examines the keys for proper funk with George Porter Jr., Zigaboo Modeliste, and Renard Poche as his assistants (it must be noted that their track, "I'm Gonna Be A Wheel Someday," is incredibly, neck-breakingly funky). In the space of four tracks, you'll find enough talent to fill 10 Superdomes.

Along with these jaw-dropping juxtapositions, there are plenty of selections that are more isolated but just as engaging. This set could help expose even more people to British wailer Corinne Bailey Rae, whose soulful live version of "One Night of Sin" wraps up disc one in scintillating fashion. Before that, there's John Lennon's gritty "Ain't That A Shame," which epitomizes the Rock 'n Roll brilliance that Fats effortlessly conjured. It's no stretch for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers to tackle the lively jump rhythm of "I'm Walkin'", nor for Dr. John to interpret the rollicking "Don't Leave Me This Way." Also, Bonnie Raitt's resounding voice matches well with Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen's thumping second-line blues on "I'm In Love Again/All By Myself."

Woman power is in full effect on Goin' Home, and the ladies provide some of the most entertaining moments. Norah Jones lends her easy style and mesmerizing voice to a sweetly sincere "My Blue Heaven," and this track will perk up the ears of music fans from any walk of life. Lucinda Williams gives "Honey Chile" a swinging honky-tonk slant, and a meeting of NOLA vocal heavyweights occurs on "I Just Can't Get New Orleans Off My Mind." This tune benefits from Irma Thomas and Marcia Ball's divergent styles, with Thomas' burly singing smoothed out by Ball's more reserved offerings.

Of course there are selections that take more artistic license with the source material, like Neil Young's ultra-strange take on "Walkin' to New Orleans," which swoons with strings and choral backing vocals. Also of note here are Robert Plant's two contributions which, along with his upcoming project with Alison Krauss, highlight the formidable vocalist's recent infatuation with collaboration. Lil' Band o' Gold provides a bass-heavy R&B accompaniment to Plant's vocals on "It Keeps Rainin'," " and he formulates Ladysmith-like African harmonies with the Soweto Gospel Choir on the haunting, near-acapella "Valley of Tears." Turning in an entirely different direction, The Skatalites offer a skankin' version of "Be My Guest" featuring Ben Harper's liquid vocals, followed by Toots & The Maytals bass-heavy, dub-leaning take on "Let The Four Winds Blow."

Naturally, it's the artists who call New Orleans and surrounding areas home that produce the most energetic results. The aforementioned ReBirth and Dirty Dozen Brass Bands make some of the strongest contributions to the collection. B.B. King sounds 20 years younger fronting Ivan Neville and Dumpstaphunk on "Goin' Home," and The New Orleans Social Club easily adds the appropriate amount of Crescent City strut to "My Girl Josephine" with Taj Mahal. Art Neville has little trouble with a solo piano performance of "Please Don't Leave Me." Galactic plays a doubleheader on the set, backing up Robbie Robertson on the shuffling "Going to the River" and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux on a boisterous, charging "So Long." Marc Broussard, a favorite of ours here at HGMN, makes good on his chance to shine, teaming up with Sam Bush to produce a slinky, blue-eyed version of "Rising Sun." Closing the whole thing out is a highly faithful "When The Saints Go Marching In." This must be approximately the billionth time The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has performed this standard, but they do it with uncanny vigor, utilizing vocal jolts from local hottie Theresa Andersson and the venerable Walter "Wolfman" Washington.

Only a couple of fumbles bounce around the album. Los Lobos is amazingly normal on "The Fat Man." Willie Nelson is swallowed by overbearing horn and rhythm sections on "I Hear You Knockin'." Elton John lays down a faithful but forgettable reading of "Blueberry Hill," and you'd expect more from Sir Elton on a tune that's a flagship for the piano. Paul McCartney and Allen Toussaint's "Let Me Walk You Home" could have used some extra spice, and while Randy Newman's "Blue Monday" has a somewhat pleasing groove, well, I'm just not down with Randy Newman. Your mileage may vary.

None of these slight missteps take away from the enjoyment of the delectable gumbo that is this compilation - if anything, they bolster the set's already brimming diversity. You'll be hard-pressed to find an artist whose influence reaches farther than Fats', and even harder-pressed to lay your hands on a tribute album as good as this one.

--Bryan Rodgers