Friday, 31 August 2012

Dr John- Locked Down

This year saw a welcome album release from legendary New Orleans musician Mac Rebennack or as he is better known Dr John. His new album released earlier this year Locked Down was produced by Black Keys singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and was recorded at Auerbach's Nashville studio. It's an album that takes Dr John back to his earlier incarnation as Dr John the Night Tripper from the late 1960's, this set is full of solid grooves, an unrelenting syncopated funk. Dr John used this canvas to create an album that resonates with desperation and focuses on the plight of America it's stalling economy and disintegrating social harmony.

The title track has an afrofunk style drum beat that permeates throughout the album, with chanting backing vocals and a torrid tale of life on the inside.

Lived reckless so long Justice system bust me wrong,
Future stretched out like a rubber check
Don't be jeffin out the side of your neck,
Dealin from the bottom of the deck,
Might make it home to the projects.

Revolution has a honking horn rhythm with Dr John fully delving into his old style, it's a powerful social commentary and it seems to be a style that is coming back, that sort of social commentary was prevalent in the early 70's especially in soul and R&B music.

Blind eyes of justice Deaf ears of power
Dumb moves of money, left us in a desperate hour
Economy connin me out of my sanity

The strutting Big Shot is New Orleans jazz tinged R&B that was Dr John's formative style going back into the late 50's, this is a full circle tale coming from a gent who has seen it all, the seamy underworld of New Orleans. Ice Age is pure funk with a bass line that floats across the beat and into the spaces between, ths album has an amazing clarity about it, it's ability to reflect the ill winds that are blowing makes this album stand out.

Now it's a cold age, worrying about the rent,
Ain't got a cent, got no cash to flash.
Now you ain't got no friends, be losin jobs
Start losin hope, usimg dope,
Now we all hangin from the end of our rope.

Dan Auerbach creates the right setting for Dr John, challenging him to not play it safe both musically and lyrically, Auerbach is a producer who knows how to capture the true essence of the artist he is working with. It's not about virtuosity it's about the overall song and concept, it's about capturing the essence of something with trying to formulate it, it's a natural process. The instrumental Eleggua is pure Night Tripper cascading keyboards pulsating bass and syncopated beat. Dr John then changes shift with My Children, My angels a heartfelt tribute to his children, almost an apology for the dark period in his life in which he battled heroin addiction. A great return to form from one of the iconic masters of New Orleans music.

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