"Treme" has yet to capture the critical acclaim of "The Wire"—and, really, how could anything—but David Simon's newest HBO series does have a leg up on its predecessor in one key area. The music of "Treme" captures New Orleans at its best—a ragged, beautiful, brass-filled celebration of hard living.
The show, which launched its second season last weekend, follows the Crescent City's post-Katrina recovery, both physically and emotionally, with music as a key component. The 18-song soundtrack includes plenty of established stars (Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, etc.), but the lesser-known musicians and live recordings provide the most flavor.
Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers' "Skokiaan" sounds straight from the band's show in the club he usually plays on "Treme," Bullet's. It's an excellent introduction to Ruffins, a scene-stealing trumpet player and real-life local legend whom few non-natives had heard of before the show. "Feel Like Funkin' It Up" by the Rebirth Brass Band is a live street mix that puts you in the middle of a raucous march, just as "Indian Red" by the Mardi Gras Indians offers a snippet of that annual party.
Solid from start to finish, this soundtrack acts as an authentic introduction to a great city's musical culture. It's New Orleans' Buena Vista Social Club.