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Album Review: Dr John - Locked Down

1 May 2012 | 10:09 am | Zoe Barron

It’s music as music should be – genuine, gutsy, honest.

Outside, hipster kids are trawling through 'vintage' stores and fairs, trying their best to hark back to some era they've never seen and at the same time make it their own. On stage and in rehearsal rooms, bands are mixing pop and alternative music from the '70s, playing with styles long since invented and played out, raiding their parents' record collections and trying to absorb that sound into their own.

Inside a recording studio in New Orleans, however, Dr John – Malcolm Rebennack by birth – is making more of it. He's not copying nothin', not trying to replicate the sound of the '60s or '70s – he was there. The 71 year old had his first hit in 1959, was an A-list session player through the '60s, and had become the legendary, wildly theatrical Night Tripper by the early '70s.

He's never managed to grow old, though. Locked Down puts the number of albums he's recorded as bandleader somewhere close to 30, but the music's as full of vigour and funk as ever. From the sound of it, making music is like breathing for Dr John and the musicians he's working with. It's music as music should be – genuine, gutsy, honest.  There's nothing contrived or forced about it – you believe every word he says.

Locked Down is an effort of collaboration, with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys brought on as bandleader/producer – and guitarist of course. He enters the blend seamlessly, and probably helps to tie the music to the contemporary era. Because as much as this is music of an era long gone, it's also ageless. It belongs anywhere. As the liner notes claim, “[Locked Down] is an invitation to do a dirty grind in a backroom bar at 3am and a call to go to church the next day…”

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