Dr. John - Locked Down (2012)

Dr. John
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Contrary to popular belief, Dr. John – the former Malcolm John Rebennack, Jr. – has not been MIA. His tour schedule remains grueling and his recordings are more sporadic, but continual. Yet, the inspiration for new ideas seems to be somewhat lacking on his latter albums. Luckily, anyone with a craving for some spicy New Orleans funk and doesn’t mind scorching hot sauce will certainly drool over the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s dish served on his latest offering, Locked Down. Black Keys’ producer Dan Auerbach jumps into the production chamber, leading the “Right Place, Wrong Time” veteran down a path that feels comfy when played in between obscure ‘70's funk-jazz vinyl. From bluesy soul workouts (“Locked Down,” “Revolution”) to synthy organ gospel (“Kingdom of Izzness”), from Bayou zydeco (“Big Shot”) to Kill Bill-esque blaxplotation grooves (“Eleggua”), Dr.

Contrary to popular belief, Dr. John – the former Malcolm John Rebennack, Jr. – has not been MIA. His tour schedule remains grueling and his recordings are more sporadic, but continual. Yet, the inspiration for new ideas seems to be somewhat lacking on his latter albums. Luckily, anyone with a craving for some spicy New Orleans funk and doesn’t mind scorching hot sauce will certainly drool over the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s dish served on his latest offering, Locked Down. Black Keys’ producer Dan Auerbach jumps into the production chamber, leading the “Right Place, Wrong Time” veteran down a path that feels comfy when played in between obscure ‘70's funk-jazz vinyl. From bluesy soul workouts (“Locked Down,” “Revolution”) to synthy organ gospel (“Kingdom of Izzness”), from Bayou zydeco (“Big Shot”) to Kill Bill-esque blaxplotation grooves (“Eleggua”), Dr. John and his electric piano playing are in familiar territory, especially as he soars on the wings of Auerbach’s fresh, intoxicating songwriting. And the creativity gets seriously interesting on “Ice Age,” an intoxicating brew blending the cool guitar riffs of The Police, the soul beats of The Meters and a psychedelic-inspired girl chorus into one bad-ass template for Dr. John’s gritty, rustic pipes. John, 71, sounds invigorated and his often-icy voice practically never misses a beat.

There are one or two tracks that feel like incomplete grooves, albeit good garage jams (“You Lie”) that never evoke a yawn. Dan Auerbach’s ear for retro design proves to be just as delectable as Mark Ronson’s work on Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black and Bosco Mann is on Sharon Jones.

To most of the outside world, John is still a revered unknown with a catalog of music that’s highly underrated and ignored. Locked Down, possibly his best album to-date, will persuade new listeners to take a second look.

Vocals: 3.0 stars
Music: 4.0 stars
Lyrics: 3.0 stars
Production: 4.0 stars
SoulTracks Call:
Enthusiastically recommended

By J. Matthew Cobb

 
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