Top artists from the worlds of country, folk, blues, gospel and Cajun music have put their talents where their hearts are in "Forgotten but Not Gone," a new album created to help restore the homes, communities and dignity of tens of thousands of Gulf Coast residents still displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
Produced, distributed and promoted entirely by volunteers, the limited-edition album's proceeds will go directly to Episcopal Community Services of Louisiana in New Orleans and LESM on the Bay, a project of Lutheran-Episcopal Services of Mississippi, according to a Nov. 5 news release.
Three Nashville music industry friends, singer/songwriter Ric Kipp, producer/multi-instrumentalist Phillip Wolfe, and executive producer Rebecca Wolfe, pioneered the project. The three were moved to action by the personal experiences of Kipp, a New Orleans native who saw the landscape of his childhood swept away by Katrina.
"At first I felt paralyzed by all the destruction," Kipp said. "But then, when time passed and there were still so many people living in primitive, temporary shelter, I started asking myself what I could do to change things."
The album draws attention to the plight of those still living in temporary housing four years after the most destructive natural disaster in U.S. history devastated New Orleans and much of coastal Mississippi. But it also celebrates the colorful history and defiant determination of those who call the Gulf Coast home.
Active in rebuilding hurricane-damaged homes with the combined help of volunteers and professional contractors, Episcopal Community Services, with the New Orleans Office of Disaster Response, has rebuilt 55 houses in New Orleans since 2006 and gutted an additional 900, at a total value of $12.6 million. The organization also provides case management services to 2,500 households, focusing on those most in need of assistance – the elderly, the disabled and households with young children.
LESM on the Bay operates two hurricane recovery centers in Mississippi, including Camp Coast Care, which works with volunteers who donate week-long blocks of labor in exchange for shelter and meals. So far, more than 12,000 volunteers have come from all over the world to help. The organization recently moved from Long Beach, Mississippi to Bay St. Louis in Hancock County, one of three counties hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina.
"The outpouring of support for this project has been unbelievable," said executive producer and album coordinator Rebecca Wolfe, noting that all artists, songwriters, producers, record labels, publishing companies, photographers, designers and consultants donated their services and performances. "This is a totally pro-bono project accomplished without major label involvement or other financial backing. It’s a labor of love from the hearts of many, many people and a testament to the good in human nature. Every penny of sales will go to the two organizations we’ve selected as our partners."
The album showcases performances by what Steve Bogard, president of Nashville Songwriters Association International, calls a "legendary cast" of American roots artists. Several of the album's songs, including the title track by Lee Roy Parnell, the eponymous "Legend of Moses Crow," and the powerful bookend anthems "Last Night I Dreamed of New Orleans" by Bonnie Bramlett and "Stay Down in New Orleans" by Bekka Bramlett, are original compositions written and produced for the album by Kipp and Phillip Wolfe. Wolfe, who owns Shadow Lane Studios outside Nashville, also performed on many of the tracks.
Four other songs – "Trouble of the World" by Mike Farris (with the McCrary Sisters), "Louisiana Rain" by Tony Joe White, "Hard Times in the Big Easy" by Wood Newton, and "Mardi Gras" by Katrina evacuee Bruce Bellott – were also produced exclusively for the album.
Other tracks – including "Steve’s Hammer" by Steve Earle, "Everything I Know about the Blues" by Delbert McClinton, and "There’s a Rainbow at the end of Every Storm" by Marty Stuart – were donated from previous albums by these Grammy-winning artists.
Additional highly regarded, award-winning performers featured on the album are Buddy and Julie Miller, Jon Justice, Chris Knight, Jack Ingram, Radney Foster, Steve Azar and Kieran Kane (with Kevin Welch and Fats Kaplin).
"Forgotten but Not Gone" can be purchased through the album's website or from CD Baby for $14.99 plus shipping, handling and applicable sales taxes. CD Baby also offers options for digitally downloading the album and individual tracks. The album may also be purchased by sending a check or money order for $18 per CD to Gulf Coast Relief, Inc., P.O. Box 597, Hermitage, TN 37076.