Today marks the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast, killing nearly 2,000 people and dislocating thousands more. To commemorate the date, Athens rock legends Five Eight have released a brand new tune, “The Flood,” featuring lead vocals from Drive-By Truckers’ Patterson Hood.
The song, co-written by Five Eight’s Mike Mantione and Sean Dunn, the latter of whom is from New Orleans, is available to stream and download on Bandcamp:
Ten years ago I was trying to find Sean Dunn, to have him rejoin the band. Then Hurricane Katrina hit.
Sean was newly sober, and after the storm looked for his brother for three weeks. The Dunn family was from New Orleans and Five Eight was always deeply linked to the city, between late night parties with Kermit Ruffins eating red beans and rice to opening for Wilco at the Contemporary Arts Center. When I finally talked to Sean he still hadn’t found his brother and his mother was distraught. All of our friends in the music scene in New Orleans (Fred Leblanc, James Hall, Grant Curry) had also left the city. It was crushing to say the least.
Fast forward to today and Sean and I are both sober, his brother (who was eventually located) also got sober and has remarried and started a new life. Sean and I write together, and when we do he brings the music and I add the lyrics. One particularly dark song he brought not long ago—a mournful Neil Young meets Led Zeppelin like tune—really moved me. Having no idea what the song was about yet, I kept singing the words “Ha Ha, what a sight to see.”
I ask him what the song was about, and he says it’s called “The Flood.” Instantly memories of Katrina “flooded” back to me. I remembered the phone call, with Sean still raw from Katrina and fighting a heroin addiction. I remember once figuring Sean and his brother were likely both dead, if not from the storm then from their addictions. I remember the city being gone —- like a punch in the stomach. I turned to Sean and said, ” Wow you really want to write about Katrina?”, and he’s says “I actually hadn’t even thought of that.”
I think that we deal with true human tragedy underneath in the soul, the subconscious, in our dreams. We suppress outward expression and keep everything in place with words and euphemisms like “flood”
We can tell stories but really we have to bend to life as it is. The lyrics in the song are from children who witnessed the destruction because they were stuck in the city. They noticed things at face value and much of what they saw is strangely free from a feeling of loss. The loss itself becomes the sublime joy of living through it.
I brought Patterson Hood in to sing with me on The Flood as a duet. I have never done anything like that before. I knew his voice would ring true—but I was thinking he would just sing back up. He came into the studio having never heard the song before and sang it like I wished I could.
So I just re-sang everything to his lead.
We are briefly releasing this track in its present, raw form as our tribute to the great city of New Orleans, as they remember their loss today on August 29th.
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