At its most intimate, music heals our emotional wounds and inspires us; at its most public, it unites people across cultural boundaries. But can it rebuild a city? Renowned music writer John Swenson asks that question with New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans, a story about America's most colorful and troubled city and its indominable will to survive. Under sea level, repeatedly harangued by fires, crime, and most devastatingly, by Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has the potential to one day become a "New Atlantis," a lost metropolis under the waves. But this threat has failed to prevent its stalwart musicians and artists from living within its limits, singing its praises and attracting the economic growth needed for its recovery. New Atlantis records how the city's jazz, Cajun, R&B, Bourbon Street, second line, brass band, rock and hip hop musicians are reconfiguring the city's unique artistic culture, building on its historic content while reflecting contemporary life in New Orleans. New Atlantis is a city's tale made up of citizen's tales.
It's the story of Davis Rogan, a songwriter, bandleader and schoolteacher who has become an integral part of David Simon's new HBO series Treme (as compelling a story about New Orleans as The Wire was about Baltimore). It's the story of trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, who lost his father in the storm and has since become an important political and musical force shaping the future of New Orleans. It's the story of Bo Dollis Jr., chief of the Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indians, as he tries to fill the shoes of his ailing father Bo Dollis, one of the most charismatic figures in Mardi Gras Indian history. It is also the author's own story; each musician profiled will be contextualized by Swenson's three-decades-long coverage of the New Orleans music scene.