Original release date – 3rd April 2012
Whilst Dr John never really went away, his artistic efforts have been ‘sagging’ slightly in more recent years. Despite originally hailing from LA, John has become intertwined into New Orleans folklore and has emerged as a figurehead for the city post-Katrina. Similarly, his association with the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee, where he plays frequently, is as a result of his 1974 offering, Desitively Bonnaroo – New Orleans patois for “good time” or “party.”
And it was here, in Tennessee, that John started his collaboration with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys fame who together stormed the Bonnaroo stage for a cracking set, and then went straight into the studio to have a crack at a new album.
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It’s an unlikely collaboration, seemingly escaping Dr. John’s New Orleans character intentionally and going in search of something entirely different, and a bit new. Auerbach takes up both producing and guitar duties and brings back ‘trickology’ (see liner notes) – whatever that is! – to John’s writing which is the key to his success, apparently.
Littered with R&B and Soul references musically, the album centres on a solid groove and a PHAT beat which would give even the funkalicious James Brown a run for his money. It’s infectious and the perfect chilled-out groove for any chilled-out summer.
Musical hooks such as the horn line in ‘Ice Age’ tease with a pop sensibility presumably put forward by Auerbach whilst the title track, and album opener, ‘Locked Down’ features an almost dreary sing-along which is surprisingly effective. It’s just cool.
But that’s exactly what this album achieves; it just makes you feel like you’ve been accepted into somewhere you really don’t belong – a speakeasy in Orleans perhaps? – and brings back the good old days, some cracking tunes and a bit of the past that never really should have gone away.
However self-referential it may first appear the album stays current with John showing outrage over class inequities and flawed American systems. It also remains entirely unpredictable, despite the numerous hooks, and John, at 71, appears to be getting better with age. Vocally, he’s like a fragile Leonard Cohen, with the song writing sensibility of Springsteen and the beats of James Brown. What a fantastic combination, and what a great album.
Track to download: Eleggua