“Rebellious revolution – Is this the final solution?” asks Dr. John. The New Orleans legend, the hip alter ego of Mac Rebennack, has soaked up a lifetime of music from the southern melting pot and has been delivering his own take on (deep breath) voodoo-rock-and-soul-funk-R&B-swamp-blues-jazz-gumbo since 1968 – a potent mix. Now at 71, this latest collaboration with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach is just as potent as ever. Auerbach as producer and musician has got the exact sound needed – gritty and musical, organised and funky. It’s the perfect background for Dr. John’s wise and still ultra-hip voice to remind us of the point of view of a liberal minded American, considerably disillusioned by his government and the world around him in these times. Given what happened to New Orleans at the destructive hand of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent neglect of that city by the then incumbent Bush administration, I’m not sure there’s any one better placed than Dr. John to ask the question about revolution. He’s striking a chord with considerable precision and it fits the musical template perfectly, the sleeve notes somewhat correctly proclaiming that “It’s 1969, 1974, and 2012 all at once”. The parallels are perfect, with troubled times reflected by music that rises to the occasion, fuelling the creative fire of musicians and hitting home with the listener. And while it all sounds very influenced by 1968, its approach and production values are most definitely of now, this is exactly how a Dr. John record in 2012 should sound as a new generation of listeners get hip.
The roster is impressive too, garage guitar comes from Auerbach and Brian Olive, whilst a funk edge comes from Hot Pie & Candy’s Max Weissenfeldt on drums, Truth & Soul’s Nick Movshon and Leon Michels on bass and horns, whilst ghostly background vocals from the McCrary Sisters perfectly compliment Rebennack’s voodoo keyboards. It comes thick and fast from start to finish, reaching a head during the second half crescendo of “Getaway” as the band put on some serious thunder, a blistering guitar solo made me very excited that I was listening to something that had just been released, yet would stay with me for years to come.
Locked Down is a seriously potent gumbo, a cornerstone of Dr. John’s career, it is a vital record, delivering both the poison and then the antidote, as only Dr. John can.