Dr John gets a dose of transcontinental boogie
THE VOODOO took root in Brooklyn for Easter. New Orleans sage and free spirit Dr John, aka Mac Rebennack, is holding down a residency over three weekends at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).
It began with Rebennack doffing his cap to Louis Armstrong and will end with him and a bunch of other Nu Awlins champs onstage this weekend. But it’s the three shows in the middle of the run, with Rebennack playing his new album, Locked Down, which caught our attention.
Produced by Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach Dr John the Night Tripper in the late 1960s after a brainstorming session with pals in Los Angeles.
Since the release of the outstanding Gris-gris debut album in 1968, Dr John has become the embodiment of a very individual freak scene, which takes in New Orleans’ enigmas, psychedelic rock rhythms and a theatrical stage Winehouse to Lee Fields. In part too, it’s down to the material, a bunch of songs in which Rebennack takes the mask off and reflects on the bigger issues around faith and family.
The real reason for the boogaloo, though, comes down to the man in the middle of the stage behind the Farfisa and Hammond B3. Sure, there’s the odd nod to that patented Dr John stage shtick and, yes, there’s also a few glances at the more popular corners of the back-catalogue with solo piano nods to Tipitina and Such a Night. But this is about the power and precision of a very strong album and Rebennack is extremely hip to that fact.
He also knows that he is at the helm of a very hot band, who are keenly tuned to every spike and swing in the music, from Ice Age to My Children, My Angels.
When they turn their attention to the classics, such as Iwalked on Gilded Splinters and Black John the Conqueror, a whole new set of expectations take flight.
If Auerbach has been the facilitator who has shown Rebennack a new way to skin a cat, you know that the man himself just won’t leave it at that. Expect the good doctor to relish this new lease of life for some time to come.