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Life Goes On

A year after one of the nation's worst natural disasters struck the Gulf Coast and flooded New Orleans, the city is showing signs of hope. Despite some

A year after one of the nation’s worst natural disasters struck the Gulf Coast and flooded New Orleans, the city is showing signs of hope. Despite some post-Katrina successes (and many failures), things are far from normal, particularly in the Ninth Ward and other hard-hit areas. Today, life isn’t easy in The Big Easy, but like other great cities that have endured disasters (San Francisco, 1906; Chicago, 1871; New York City, 2001), New Orleans can — and will — endure.

A sign of healing comes from a return to normalcy: Tipitina’s is gigging, and you can have breakfast at Brennan’s and beignets at Café du Monde. A major step comes from ordinary people doing everyday jobs under sometimes extraordinary conditions. This issue’s “New Orleans Stories” section focuses on some audio professionals who are doing just that — finding their way amid the debris.

Grammy-winning engineer Trina Shoemaker talks about rebuilding her life after losing her home and studio to Katrina and the rising waters of Lake Pontchartrain. Faced with a tough dilemma, with minutes to evacuate, do you grab your Neve modules, the family dog or the photo albums? It’s a human condition, not limited to hurricanes: Mix contributing editor Michael Cooper had the same scenario last week as he fled wildfires in Oregon. In his case, there was no damage, but a similar situation could happen to any of us at any time.

Three Doors Down guitarist Chris Henderson was not so lucky when Katrina blasted his home/studio in Gautier, Miss. Henderson went in after the floodwaters receded, rinsed everything down and couldn’t return for six weeks. In some ways, Henderson was lucky — Fender, Gibson and PRS offered free/discounted restorations on his guitar collection (37 of 39 survived), and a favorite Neumann M147 somehow worked with just a dry-out after 18 hours of saltwater immersion. Since Henderson’s room went back online, he’s been offering free sessions to local bands — his way of helping his community.

Our Nashville editor Rick Clark chats with Scott Billington, producer and VP of A&R for Rounder Records, who talks about the state of music in the Crescent City. As a top producer/label exec, Billington produced a benefit album within six weeks of the disaster and donated the proceeds to NARAS’ MusiCares to assist musicians who had nothing.

There’s an old joke about “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,” but sometimes it’s true. Louisiana is serious about jump-starting its recording industry, with an investment-based tax incentive designed to aid the state’s recording community. Modeled after the highly successful motion picture incentives in many states, the music program rebates 10 to 20 percent back on money spent in the state for production expenses, such as studio fees, session players, engineers, hotels, catering, media, etc.

The minimum expense to qualify is $15,000 over the course of a year — not necessarily on one project. Louisiana will send a reimbursement check to labels or producers (whoever invests in the recording) regardless of where they or the artists are based, as long as the work was done within the state.

Visit, and add some Southern spice to your next project.