The beats are “dirty-dirty” New Orleans, with lyrics to match, on Troubled the Water, the debut album from Blackkoldmadina (aka Kim Rivers Roberts). Roberts’ Katrina footage was recently turned into a film, Trouble the Water, which won a grand jury prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. (And “Trouble the Water,” in Dec. ’08, was amongst 49 songs in the running for an Oscar in ’09.)
Roberts’ is a deeply personal album about life as a black woman in New Orleans; she speaks gruff truth about the city’s cycle of poverty and violence, as well as family issues and loved ones’ drug addictions. The subject matter is graphic and raw, just like New Orleans.

Anthology l The Library of America has collected the works of one of New Orleans’ best-known writers in Lafcadio Hearn: American Writings (March 2009), edited by Christopher Benfey. The hefty, collegiate tome contains an extraordinary collection of Hearn’s most famous works, including “Some Chinese Ghosts” and “Two Years in the French West Indies,” as well as essays, pieces of journalism and sketches drawn by Hearn.

Cookbook l Maque Choux with Fried Green Tomatoes, Natchitoches Meat Pies, Crispy Soft-Shell Crab and Grilled Redfish are amongst signature Louisiana dishes featured in Donald Link’s new cookbook Real Cajun (Clarkson Potter, April 2009). Born and raised in southwest Louisiana, Link describes “real Cajun food” as “the best ingredients of the area, simply prepared.” True to his roots, Link’s recipes are hearty, have easy-to-follow steps and utilize ingredients available fresh in Louisiana.

Youth/Instructional l Duke Ellington: His Life in Jazz with 21 Activities by Stephanie Stein Crease shares the work of one of America’s greatest musical contributors in a way accessible to today’s youngsters.
The book includes lessons on how to improvise, read music, make a washtub bass and even how to Lindy Hop. The author includes an attractive timeline; photos from The Cotton Club’s heyday; information on Ellington’s life, including his collaboration with Sonny Greer and Elmer Snowden, and life during Prohibition and the Harlem Renaissance.

Fiction l Babylon Bayou by Conley Clark follows detective Tag Boudreau as he works to solve the murder of a mystery hottie’s brother. Clark’s character names are hokie, to the point of being off-putting (e.g. Kiki Lebrec, Koot, “Nads”), but the story is entertaining over all.