Release Date: Apr 3, 2012
Record label: Nonesuch
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Blues-Rock, Roots Rock
The collaboration between the New Orleans legend and the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach is inspired, with the younger garage-bluesman placing the 71-year-old's blues and fire in a perfectly retro-modern frame. No differently to the Black Keys, 21st-century production techniques make sounds as old as the hills seem box-fresh. But no one makes music like this: the Night Tripper rampages inimitably through swamp blues, voodoo funk and Afrobeat, with his trademark piano.
Playing himself in Season One of Treme, Dr. John rehearsed a band for a post-Katrina benefit in New York, wondering if its deep New Orleans jams might create some "confusementalism amongst the Lincoln Center set." They probably did – but at 71, Dr. John has been balancing cultural ambassadorship with jive-talking nightclub hustle for decades. Born and raised in New Orleans' Third Ward, he took his game wide, logging time in New York and Los Angeles before settling back home.
To live and breathe in the sketchiest part of the Quarter…to hustle and flow, to let go…to get saved and find a funky kind of salvation… It is the life and witness of one Malcolm Rebennack, a New Orleans hipster who did his apprenticeship as Professor Longhair’s wingman, lurking and prowling, eventually emerging as the gris-gris and gumbo swamp soulmaster Dr. John. It’s an otherworldly vibe the one known as the Night Tripper conjures, equal parts jazz, humidity, shifting rhythms and percussion blasts, squawking horns and a voice that’s nails in a blender, a gritty howl and a bit of carny sideshow confession.
At 71, this New Orleans R&B legend hardly needs help finding the funk. But there’s no denying the vintage voodoo — or the palpable disgust — the Doctor summons with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, who produced Locked Down following an onstage jam at last year’s Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee. On ”Revolution,” John bemoans the ”dumb moves of money” over a rich retro-soul groove, while the percolating ”Ice Age” imagines the KKK and the CIA ”playin’ in the same cage.” A- Best Tracks:Guitar- heavy You LieSmartly swinging Big Shot .
In recent years there has emerged a trend – a by-product of the music industry’s fetish for all things retro – for artists in the later stages of their careers to team up with younger or more credible musicians (or producers). These collaborations invariably result in a stripped down set of songs – the artist laying himself (and it seems to only apply to male artists) bare, seemingly in search of a kind of authenticity that previously may have proved elusive. Probably the most notable example of this phenomenon is Johnny Cash’s American series of albums, produced by Rick Rubin.
I see why people are suspicious about this collaboration between Dr. John (aka Mac Rebennack) and the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach. When a younger fanboy musician tries to revive the career of an influential elder, things can get uncomfortably close to parody, especially if the artists get too romantic about the past. Thankfully, Locked Down captures everything you love about the flamboyant New Orleans icon: it's gritty, greasy, swampy, trippy, spooky, funky and definitely up for a good/weird time.
Between 1968 and 1972, New Orleans-cum-L.A. session musician Mac Rebennack transformed himself into Dr. John, The Nite Tripper. He recorded a series of albums for Atlantic, most importantly Gris-Gris, but also Babylon, Remedies, and The Sun, Moon, & Herbs; they seamlessly wove a heady, swampy brew of voodoo ritual, funk, and R&B, psychedelic rock, and Creole roots music.
Dr John has never really been uncool. Ever since New Orleans session musician Mac Rebennack began layering the feathers, trinkets, animal pelts and other accoutrements of the shaman-bard in the 1960s, his place in American musical history has been locked down. He hasn't ever really gone to ground, either. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the former heroin addict re-emerged from the floodwaters as the vengeful spirit and nagging conscience of America's least American city.
The career trajectory of Mac Rebennack - aka Dr John, aka The Night Tripper - is a one of survival, grit and a lifetime devotion to the dirtier and spookier end of funk and blues. Creator of a unique blend of playful and rumbling voodoo sounds from the swamp surroundings and speakeasies of New Orleans, he has reeled out a continual line of fine records that stretch well beyond his famed 1968 Gris Gris debut; dipping his toe along the way into production, session musicianship, Spiritualized records and even Disney soundtracks. But in the 44 years he’s been present on the music scene, despite seldom disappointing in either the live or studio arena, he’s largely remained out of the mainstream.
The Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, took its name from Dr. John's 1974 album Desitively Bonnaroo-- New Orleans patois for "good time" or "party." So it makes sense that he's become a mainstay of the event, culminating in a fierce performance in 2011 with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. That onstage collaboration extended into the studio, as the younger performer produced the elder's latest album, Locked Down.
Dr. JohnLocked Down[Nonesuch; 2012]By Andrew Halverson; April 26, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetSome veterans have a quality that consistently follows them around throughout their careers and, boy, is Dr. John one of those veterans. This quality is his severe musical awareness, both of his psychedelic, socially conscious past and his streamlined view of the present.
The cover art and publicity around Dr. John’s new album Locked Down hearken back to the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, when, after a decade as a session musician (playing guitar first, switching to piano only after injuring his hand), Mac Rebennack on a lark became Dr John the Night Tripper, a voodoo mystic chronicling the strange things that go bump after dark. Those first Dr.
Malcolm John Rebennack Jr. embodies so many of the positive aspects of New Orleans culture. A living legend under the stage name Dr. John, Rebennack has recorded over 20 albums, melding together everything from freakout R&B to slithery zydeco, persisting in the face of adversity (he switched to piano from guitar after catching a bullet in the finger), and always delivering something to dance to (for whatever feeling you can imagine).
The Waco Brothers are a bunch of scraggly Brits — frontman Jon Langford also leads the on again/off again Mekons—who have synthesized a particular brand of boozy/sleazy country through their UK sensibilities since 1995. Here they join with Nashville’s Burch, coming off a successful Buddy Holly covers disc, for a meeting of the minds that tempers the Waco’s aggressive style with the singer/songwriter’s more restrained, melodic approach. It’s just as insurgent as Bloodshot typically promises but Burch brings a less boozy vibe to the sessions that nonetheless remain loose, vibrant and crackling.
A very 21st century LP from an ageless artist always worth listening to. David Quantick 2012. Born in 1940, Dr. John is like no other musician. He came to prominence in the late 1960s when his combination of jazz, blues, soul and psychedelic voodoo hit a chord with a crazed America. On albums like ….