Saturday, 7 April 2012

Dr John: Locked Down - In The Kingdom Of Izzness

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. You're right to be skeptical: A certain amount of success gives an artist the leeway to work with his heroes, and for every Van Lear Rose, there's Justin Vernon shouting out Bruce Hornsby. Auerbach has already done production work for Jessica Lea Mayfield, the Ettes, and Hacienda, but Locked Down is his first intergenerational record.

It's an unlikely collaboration, primarily because the man born Mac Rebennack seemed destined for a respectful revival focusing on his New Orleans roots and the melting pot of styles and sounds represented by the Third Ward. Think Joe Henry, some Americana fans, and a Grammy nomination. On the other hand, it's not like Locked Down represents a comeback for Dr. John: If not exactly prolific, he's been consistent throughout the last decade, releasing at least one album every two years and entertaining new twists on his time-tested Big Easy rock. Even so, this album still stands out among his recent work, not so much for the leap of faith he took collaborating with Auerbach but because it turned out so damn well.

Producing and playing like there's no such thing as boomer nostalgia, the Black Key not only respects Dr. John's southern-fried eccentricities but amplifies them. Locked Down is a weird-ass gumbo of grotty funk and R&B, littered with raunchy reeds, leering organ riffs, and blustery guitar. Often it sounds busy and overcooked, but that's better than chaste reverence on any day. The idea isn't to evoke Bourbon Street or some staid idea of New Orleans history. Instead, these songs trace dead ends and back alleys, wandering past houses still bearing high-water marks, finally arriving at a party no tourist was invited to.

Read more here

Dr John - Locked Down
Radio 4 'Frontrow' interview with Dr John

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