Dr. John at Ravinia Pavilion | Concert preview
The Night Tripper adds a dash of Ethio-mystique to his funky psychedelic gumbo.
It seems egregious that the selling point for Dr. John’s fine new disc, Locked Down, is that it’s produced by Dan Auerbach. After all, the septuagenarian New Orleans singer and pianist’s career can be traced back over half a century. Do we really need the Black Keys’ stamp of approval when we’re talking about the guy behind the potent psychedelic gumbo of 1968’s Gris-Gris?
The Big Easy native, known to some as Mac Rebennack, has kept up an impressive pace in the ensuing decades, dropping an album nearly each year. Even when a pro sheen has threatened to eclipse the grittiness of earlier efforts, his hoodoo-imbued flavor lingers. What Auerbach does on Locked Down is rekindle the vitality of his early catalog and, backed by a younger fleet of musicians, steer the Dr. beyond barrelhouse and blues, branching out to siphon elements of Ethio-jazz and Afrobeat.
It’s a natural fit. The “Night Tripper” wears those in-vogue styles and easily makes them his own, as on the crisp, serpentine groove coursing through “Ice Age” or “Eleggua.” The latter casts his gristled voice over deep funk that might as well have been played by the Meters themselves. Elegant yet in the pocket.