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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 84 | volume XV | May-June, 2012



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 84May-June, 2012
Sound Reviews

Dr. John's “Locked Down”

p. 1
Randall Roberts

It may come as a surprise that the character of Dr. John, whose new album, “Locked Down,” comes out Tuesday, was birthed in Los Angeles. The mythical voodoo pianist-conjurer is so intertwined with the stories, secrets and rituals of New Orleans that to suggest he is anything but the embodiment of the bayou borders on heresy.
    But Dr. John — that is, the persona created by New Orleans singer, songwriter and pianist Malcolm John Michael Creaux “Mac” Rebennack — was imagined and realized in the entertainment capital of the world after the young pianist moved west to find work as a session player in 1965. It was here, after hooking up with a posse of fellow New Orleans musician expats and playing on some big L.A. hits of the era, that Rebennack started brainstorming a solo career and struck up the idea of a persona.
    The one he came up with has endured for 45 years and has become a New Orleans archetype, so much so that his less inspired work over the decades has bordered on self-parody. His producers’ worst reflexes have been to highlight his New Orleans drawl, create funky rhythm, roll out a catchy melody on the piano, stir in some gumbo lyrics about second-line brass bands and then punctuate with horns.
    But then, as if conjured out of the air, his new record, “Locked Down,” arrives, and it is one of the best of his career. As Bob Dylan did with “Time Out of Mind” and Tom Waits did last year with “Bad as Me,” Dr. John does here: exiting a period of relative creative stagnation by creating something magical, the embodiment of everything he’s done but pushed in a clear new direction.
    Produced in Nashville by Dan Auerbach, singer and guitarist for the Black Keys, “Locked Down” reunites the man (Rebennack is now 71 years old) who was inspired by James Booker, Professor Longhair and Fats Domino with the abstract mystic Dr. John.
    In his 1994 autobiography, “Under a Hoodoo Moon,” Rebennack describes that mystic as “a medicine man who claimed to be a prince of Senegal before he was abducted and taken to Cuba.”
    He came up with the idea while living with a community of roustabouts in a Melrose Avenue building misleadingly called the Hollywood Executive Hotel and recorded Dr. John’s debut album, “Gris-Gris,” a swamp rock classic, at Gold Star Studios with off-hours studio time paid for

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