Dr. John "Locked Down"

You’ve heard the adage “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” An even more bold form of flattery is nuzzling up to your idol by offering to produce his new album. There’s nothing like learning your craft at the knee of the master and that is what Dan Auerbach has done. As a member of the Black Keys he’s created swampy, reverb-soaked rock that oozes blues and funk. Dr. John’s career is built on bluesy, funk infused jazz that plays around the edge of rock. After an impromptu jam session at the Bonneroo Festival last year the pair decided to record together, creating a unique opportunity for each to enhance his musical horizons. For Auerbach it’s his chance to indulge his evolving exploration of southern roots music. Dr. John benefits by having his music introduced to a new generation of music lovers.

Locked Down opens with the title track, a funky tune with a party feel. The band caws and barks before bass and drum intro a tune about the dystopia of urban life. Mac Rebennack, aka Dr. John, delivers songs that are at once both personal and political. “Revolution” continues on the theme of a dysfunctional society. Bass sax anchors the track with organ offering a contrast. “Big Shot” is a jazzy bop that features Dr. John’s ability to create character studies of people who live at the edge of society. “Ice Age” is a hodgepodge of accusations aimed equally at the C.I.A. and the K.K.K..

The life of Mac Rebennack is one of two personalities and he refers to both in his songs. Dr. John is Rebennack’s alter ego and the master of the music. In the liner notes he is referred to as “the last of the great tricknologists,” a player who is part hipster, part voodoo shaman. As for Rebennack, he is a man who has experienced the depths of drug addiction and broken relationships, but also a man who has survived to tell the tale. Throughout the release he references crime, drugs, and other a sundry past times. For his part, Auerbach matches these raw stories with steamy arrangements and a hot band of young lions. Rebennack acknowledges the influence of West African music of the 1950’s and ‘60s on his music and those rhythms can be heard throughout the album.

Rebennack offers a sentimental side on several tracks that relate to faith and family. He addresses his oft neglected offspring on “My Children, My Angels,” offering advice gleaned from his own mistakes. Locked Down ends with “God’s Sure Good.” In acknowledging his longevity despite the odds, Rebennack brings full circle the wild story of his life.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Host)