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New Orleans Residents Raise their Spirits with Music

This post was written by Alicia Budich

Foot-tapping, suspender-pulling, tear-jerking songs briefly cancelled out the drone of oil spill headlines as New Orleans-based musicians took to the stage in Washington, D.C. last week.

The excitement was palpable, making it easy to forget that the reason for the concert was a somber one-- a benefit for musicians hurt by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Before the concert, musician Paul Sanchez told CBS News' Kaylee Hartung how music saved his life in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

As Sanchez and his wife walked through downtown New Orleans, La. one month after the storm, music was the only thing that trumped their shock and anger. Jazz wafting out of Spotted Cat Music Club on Frenchmen Street and the steady thump, thump, thump of warming-up basses encouraged Sanchez to persevere. The music reminded them of why they should dare to stay in New Orleans.

He thinks music can save the hurting coast again. "Music has always been a gift to the hopeless," Sanchez said. "When people have reached their worst times, they cry out in song."

So Sanchez and Thread Head Records (THR) continue to rebuild New Orleans one song at a time.

THR does this by giving out small loans to musicians and groups to produce albums. The money from selling those albums goes back to THR to support other musicians.

The concert CBS attended raised nearly $20,000, enough for THR to fund four more albums. These albums might be created by musicians hurt by Katrina, but it's possible that THR will expand its reach and look to help musicians affected by the oil spill.

According to Sanchez, "New Orleans smells like an oil refinery."

But no amount of gushing oil can hurt the music - especially not if Sanchez and THR can help it.

Watch the interview above, plus an interview with CBS News' chief political consultant Marc Ambinder about tomorrow's elections.

"Washington Unplugged," CBSNews.com's exclusive daily politics Webshow, appears live on CBSNews.com each weekday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.

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