My Morning Jacket, the electrifying rock band that took nearly a year away from touring, is set to hit the road in April for a 9-date outing through several Southeastern states. The tour kicks off April 20 in Birmingham, Ala., winds up in Columbus, Ohio on May 2 an includes a stop at the annual New Orleans Jazzfest.
Joining the group for the entire tour will be the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, a New Orleans favorite whose ranks were deeply affected by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. While the group's namesake venue was relatively unscathed, in the wake of the storm -- and even four-and-a-half years later-- many of the musicians have been displaced and cannot find work or paying gigs. The upheaval also threatened Preservation Hall's Music Outreach Program, which provides private lessons for students who would otherwise be unable to afford them.
MMJ and the PHJB first collaborated in Spring of 2009, when MMJ mainman Jim James performed with the band in its legendary French Quarter venue. Two of the songs James recorded that night with the PHJB, "St. James Infirmary" and "Louisiana Fairytale." will appear on a forthcoming benefit album.
Ove the past three years, 25 acts have recorded songs with the band. The results can be found on "Preservation: An Album to Benefit Preservation Hall & the Preservation Hall Music Outreach Fund," which RED will release Feb. 16.
"Del McCoury was the first artist to record a track," Preservation Hall creative director Ben Jaffe says. "Then Jason Isbell responded, and we went from there. We put together a wish list of artists and just started reaching out. Some of them were artists we'd worked with; others, like Pete Seeger, had no connection to the hall but were musical institutions."
Cory Chisel, who performs the track "Some Cold Rainy Day," heard about the project during a visit to the RED offices. "They had a list of all the songs they wanted artists to do, and I ended up having to fight it out to get what I wanted," he says. To save money, the songs on the album are all in the public domain.
For Steve Earle, being part of the project meant supporting his childhood home, and he went to great lengths to record his track.
"I was touring and having trouble scheduling it, and I finally took a few days on my way home and got it done," he says. "I was exhausted, but all the guys in the band are older than I am. They do two shows a day at the hall, so the only time you can record is early in the day or late at night, and we did it late. The guys just kept going, and it really woke me up."
In addition to the tracks by Earle and Chisel, the album features such artists as Tom Waits, Ani DiFranco, Jim James and Andrew Bird.
The PHJB's leader Ben Jaffe is looking forward to spending more time with James. "I couldn't have imagined Jim fitting in any better with the guys at Preservation Hall," he has said about the 2009 concert. "Creating music is not a science. There is no tried and true formula. There is an unspoken bond amongst musicians. One that exists in the notes we choose. Jim's like our long lost cousin coming home for the first time."
MMJ Tour Dates With The Preservation Hall Jazz Band:
Apr. 20: Birmingham, AL (Alabama Theater)
Apr. 21: Nashville, TN (Municipal Auditorium)
Apr. 23: Atlanta, GA (Chastain Park)
Apr. 24: New Orleans, LA (Jazzfest)
Apr. 27: St. Augustine, FL (St. Augustine Amphitheater)
Apr. 28: Charleston, SC (Family Circle)
Apr. 30: Raleigh, NC (Koka Booth)
May 1: Columbia, MD (Merriweather Post Pavilion)
May 2: Columbus, OH (LC Outdoor Pavilion)