Dr. John: Locked Down
Bayou soul and Black Keys’ support highlights the Doctor’s latest effort
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Malcolm Rebennack hasn’t had a Top 40 hit since 1973’s “Right Place Wrong Time.” Despite being pegged a one-hit wonder according to Soundscan standards, the 71-year-old Rebennack – reborn as Dr. John – has enlarged his territory of Bayou soul and Delta blues to the masses by leaving his influence on much of the exports shipped out of New Orleans music. On his latest musical gumbo, Locked Down, the old pro teams up with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach to create what appears to be his best collection of music yet, possibly surpassing the genius of Distinctively Bonnaroo and Dr. John’s Gumbo. Certainly the retro album plays with John’s down-home roots and grinds out the funk across a palette of sweltering heat, evidence highly on the psychedelic title track and the Sharon Jones-sounding “Revolution.” “Kingdom of Izzness” spills over with “Right Place, Wrong Time” energy, even down to the mind-opening lyrics: “History’s a mystery of the chosen few/Don’t matter if you’re Muslim, Christian or Jew.”
Of the strongest pickings on Locked Down, the mostly-instrumental jam “Eleggua” and “Ice Age” instantly gratifies. The latter, in particular, gloriously sews John’s electric vibes with The Police-esque guitar riffs, Meters-like percussion and blaxplotation soul, ultimately creating an intoxicating cocktail that awakens Dr. John’s musical base. Throughout the entire collection, John seems inspired, energized and hardly misses a beat. His voice, still gritty and grimy on the surface, remains unfettered. One or two tunes sound like incomplete garage rock jams (“You Lie,” “God’s Sure Good”), but the fun and the funk are both miscible.
If you went into this thing expecting a Black Keys soundtrack, only think you’re getting is their ingenious garage production quality and Auerbach’s impressive guitar skills. For John, this is a mighty return to greatness. For Auerbach, this is the funkiest he’s ever gotten.
J MATTHEW COBB
- Release Date: 3 April 2012
- Label: Nonesuch
- Producer: Dan Auerbach
- Spin This: “Revolution,” “Eleggua,” “Ice Age,” “Locked Down”