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Groove Is in the Heart


Groove Interrupted is and isn't a Hurricane Katrina book. The storm's occasion and massive destruction following the levee failures provide the framework for the collection of profiles by The Times-Picayune's chief music writer of the last 15 years, Keith Spera. The ordeal is referenced in the title, introduction and throughout chapters focusing on musicians ranging from Fats Domino to metal rocker Phil Anselmo to rapper Mystikal to onetime-Big Star vocalist Alex Chilton, who lived below the radar in New Orleans for years. But the book also delves into each subject's own journey, and personal tragedies and triumphs. The colorful and defiant Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown was suffering from lung cancer when the storm arrived. Anselmo suffered the loss of bandmate "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott in late 2004 and fought to reclaim his life from chronic back pain and pills in the years bracketing Katrina. Mystikal spent those years behind bars for sexual battery and returned to performing after his release in 2010. With some material culled from years of reporting for the Picayune, including the paper's Pulitzer Prize-winning work during the flooding and aftermath in 2005, the book fills in details and dispels myths generated during the hectic evacuation period, particularly about Fats Domino's rescue and bumpy homecoming. The long chapter about Quint Davis both traces his career to his first meeting with George Wein and looks at the perception of New Orleans, music scene and vitality as a whole via the highly scrutinized and sometimes cathartic 2006 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. There's also reporting on various musical projects and benefits inspired by the storm, including Allen Toussaint and Elvis Costello's The River in Reverse album and tour. The book is marked by Spera's upbeat and comfortable prose, and he never loses his eye for detail or the facts as he assembles a broad survey of how New Orleans has affected its musicians and how they helped the city recover its cultural groove after the storm. — Will Coviello

Groove Interrupted

St. Martin's Press

Keith Spera discusses Groove Interrupted

6 p.m. Tuesday

Octavia Books, 513 Octavia St., 899-7323;

5 p.m. Friday

Garden District Book Shop, 2727 Prytania St., 895-2266;

Noon Sunday

Satchmo SummerFest, Maison in the Marigny, 508 Frenchmen St.;

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