Dr. John Traverses Bayou With Dan Auerbach
Veteran New Orleans artist Mac Rebbenack, better known by his stage name Dr. John, has been cutting records as a session musician and solo artist for over six decades. He has etched an impressive discography throughout his career, recording with Canned Heat, Aretha Franklin, Delaney & Bonnie, B.B. King, Carly Simon, Ringo Starr, The Band, and Buddy Guy. In his latest effort, Locked Down, Dr. John collaborated with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach to produce a dirty, sweaty, and occasionally bluesy record that is quintessential Bayou and also one of the best albums of 2012.
Auerbach, who in addition to producing Locked Downalso played guitar, percussion, and contributed background vocals to the album, was not the only perfect recording partner for Rebbenack. He also corralled former Black Keys touring keyboard player Leon Michels and bassist Nick Movshon to help relay the duo’s recording style to the album. While their influences are prevalent throughout the record, Locked Down is still very much a Dr. John record, retaining a New Orleans sound mixed with bouts of infectious Afrobeat and guitar licks.
Released in February, Locked Down’s origins are evident from the first track. Bayou sounds introduce the song “Locked Down” before catchy drums, a high-pitched chorus, and a slick guitar solo from Auerbach hook the listener into the album from the start. As the LP progresses, there isn’t much of a letdown, particularly in the fantastic track “Ice Age,” where Dr. John’s sense of ultra-cool comes through in the catchy verse,
“Well I ain’t moving too fast/You just moving too slow/Moving too slow. Ain’t what you did before/Ain’t what you know/It’s who you know. Ain’t no age of innocence/ ladies and gents.”
One moment where the styles of Auerbach and Dr. John mesh perfectly in Locked Down is found in “Getaway.” The track prominently displayed a “Dead and Gone”-style chorus that backs a series of bluesy vocals from Rebbenack. Auerbach closes out the song with one of his most powerful guitar parts yet, shredding through a solo before letting a little feedback linger on the song.
Locked Down wouldn’t be a true Dr. John record without the funk that sweeps through the second half of the album, particularly in the tracks, “Kingdom of Izzness,” “Eleggua,” and “My Children, My Angel,” giving the LP a final masterstroke.
While Dr. John has logged an impressive and entertaining discography over his lengthy career, it may be hard to beat the depth of a record like Locked Down. The same could be said for Auerbach, who has been on a hot streak over the last few years with the Black Keys and Black Roc. The merge of their two talents yielded a bit of swampy brilliance.