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Album Review: Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch by Dr. John
Very Good, Based on 8 Critics
Record Collector - 80 Based on rating 4/5
Indications that Mac Rebennack’s tribute to fellow New Orleans native Louis Armstrong won’t be a stuffy and serious affair come as early as the opening track. Wonderful World, a lilting, string-driven ballad in Satchmo’s hands, is completely overhauled to become a bouncy, boisterous dancefloor filler, motored along by the honking horns of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Oh no, this ain’t no sombre eulogy; the good doctor is in full-on party mode, drawlin’ and squawlin’ his way through World On A String in the company of an extremely sassy Bonnie Raitt.
Dr. JohnSke-Dat-De-Dat…The Spirit of Satch(Proper/Concord)4 out of 5 stars Look no further than the title to understand the origins of Dr. John’s motivation to pay tribute to Louis Armstrong, one of his New Orleans hometown’s most fabled musicians. The pianist claims that Armstrong’s spirit came to him and said “take my music and do it your way.” John needed no more impetus, especially since he has already honored Satchmo on stage and released similarly styled album tributes to Duke Ellington and Johnny Mercer.
At 73 years old, you can still count on Mac “Dr. John” Rebbanack to zig instead of zag, to shift gears in mid-turn. So it’s really no surprise to find him following up his stellar Dan Auerbach-produced 2012 album, Locked Down, a record that found him somewhat reinventing himself for a new generation, with a batch of songs firmly entrenched in a previous generation.
Malcolm John Rebennack, the invaluable pianist/singer/New Orleans funkmaster better known as Dr. John, claims that it was Louis Armstrong himself who came to him in a dream and not only inspired Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch but also blessed the project. “Louis’ spirit came to me and told me to do something, that’s how this whole thing started,” says Dr.
Dr. John's Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch is a collection of songs by and associated with fellow New Orleanian Louis Armstrong, one of the handful cats who put jazz on the map in the early years of the 20th century. Finely arranged by trombonist and co-producer Sarah Morrow, all of these 13 tracks feature guest stars and a great band. Dr.
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Given both his close identification with the music of his hometown of New Orleans and his prior history with tribute LPs to pre-rock & roll composers (cf. Duke Elegant, a nod to Duke Ellington, and Mercernary, a tip of the cane to songwriter Johnny Mercer), it was inevitable that Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack would get around to covering the music of Louis Armstrong.
Modern masculinist country has already spawned a backlash in the form of parody Twitter accounts and response songs, but it soldiers on, still looking for its apotheosis. Up rides Chase Rice, probably in a truck, almost definitely in a backward snapback cap, looking to get into a little trouble. “Ignite the Night” is his major-label debut album, and it’s angling for a good time: the water and the sun; women who like to hang out by the water in the sun (“Your tan lines were the map for my hands to find their way/In that empty lifeguard shack”); trucks; women who like to ride in trucks (“I never seen a side ride seat looking so hot”).