Sunday, December 30, 2012

BEST OF 2012 - #5 - DR. JOHN - "LOCKED DOWN"

Dr. John's Locked Down is one of the few albums that I got around to writing about this year. That's because I was so excited about it, and I still am.  It's a great album.

Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys (a favorite of mine:  their album El Camino was my #4 album of 2011 even though it came out at the very end of the year, and Brothers was my #7 album of 2010) did a great job producing. I don't think this was a case of a hot artist just slapping his name on an album by a vet.  I feel like he had a vision for this album, and I would bet he was happy with the results.

The choice to keep Dr. John on electric keyboards (he doesn't play any grand piano) was an inspired one, it sort of prevented the album from being a waltz through traditional New Orleans roots.  It doesn't sound like a clapton-esque blues tribute at a fancy museum.  More like you turned around a corner you never turned down before, and ended up in a bar you never knew existed, but may have heard of.  It gave it the creepy vibe of the Doctor's early albums, where he created a very cool mix (or "gumbo") of New Orleans music with rock and roll.

On the other hand, the album ends with two really tender songs. "My Children, My Angels" is a song Dr. John wrote at Auerbach's insistence.  As the title insinuates, it's about his kids. And then "God's Sure Good."  I think that without those songs, the album could have been too much of a throwback of Dr. John trying to be his old "Night Tripper" character.  Too many songs like the last two would have made the album too grandfather-y.  So, putting the two sides together balanced each other out.

I'm not a huge Dr. John expert, but I think this is one of the best albums he's made.  Certainly the best from the past few decades.  He obviously brought his A-game to the collaboration, and here's hoping they work together again.

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