Dr. John: Locked Down (Nonesuch) 

From the Rolling Stones' adoration for Howlin' Wolf to Jack White's pledged allegiance to Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson, there is nothing particularly novel about musicians exercising their hero worship. Therefore, it would be useless to question the motivations of Dan Auerbach—of the Black Keys fame—when it came to writing, arranging, performing on and producing Locked Down, the most-recent release by hoodoo high priest Dr. John ("Mac" Rebennack).

That said, reinvention would be worthless were Rebennack not ably on-point throughout Locked Down.

It's not a flawless record by a long shot, and the insistent, showy presence of Auerbach's guitar on the dank "Getaway" or the swaggering title track can feel like overkill or unnecessary window dressing. Meanwhile, there is an aimless, bogged-down quality to the vamping "My Children, My Angels" that seems desperate in its desire to capture the iconic sound of Dr. John.

Still, when Auerbach's force of will and Rebennack's iconoclastic charms meet, the results can be magic. For instance, the lovely "God's Sure Good" beautifully marries Auerbach's sharp, celebratory guitar lines with Rebennack's soulful delivery. "Eleggua" is a fun and bouncy zydeco romp. Else-where, the fevered rave-up of "Revolution" and the clean, futurist tones of "Ice Age" represent the apogee of this collaboration.

Although Auerbach's sheen can occasionally distract, Rebennack's ageless presence makes Locked Down worth a spin. Whether he's toasting the heavens ("God's Sure Good") or reveling in the tawdry here-and-now ("You Lie"), Dr. John's madcap funk remains singular.

More by Michael Petitti


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