Dr John - Mercenary
Now in his mid sixties, Mac Rebenack, better known as Dr John sees to
be busier than ever. Just months after he rush recorded and released the
"Suppiana hericane" mini album in support of the victims of Hurricane Katrina
that devastated his home city of New Orleans, he now presents us with a
further foray into the great American songbook. Taking a diversion
from his regular gumbo of New Orleans R&B, rock n roll and blues, "Mercenary" pays tribute to the songs of Johnny Mercer, in a series of recordings that started with "A Sentimental Mood" in 1989, continued with "Afterglow" in 1995 and his Duke Ellington tribute "Duke Elegant" in 1999 (he likes his terrible plays on words)
After a suggestion by his daughter Tina that the song "Personality"
would suit his down home style he set about recording a whole album of
some of the 1500 songs written or sung by fellow Southerner Mercer. Of
course this being Dr John you don't get regular cover versions, he puts
that Louisiana bayou feel into most of the songs, where others would have
probably recorded these songs with a big band or orchestra Dr john uses
his road band "The Lower 911" consisting of just guitar, brass and drums
and occasional guest musician. The jazz trumpet of Charlie Miller enhances
the aforementioned "Personality" evoking images of New orleans Jazz Clubs
of Soryville. The lullaby like "Hit The Road To Dreamland" features the
tenor sax of veteran
crescent city R&B player Herb Hardistry.
There are a couple of instrumentals "I'm An Old Cow Hand" is given a samba treatment and "Tangerine" keeps on the right side of slipping into cocktail jazz territory due to the funkiness of the musicians involved.
The much covered "Blues In the Night" sounds like an afro introduction before moving into a typical New Orleans funky interpretation. The well known "Moon River" has never sounded like it does here with the Doctors southern drawl backed by a percolating hammond organ and a neat guitar riff.
The best track is another well known Mercer standard "That Old Black Magic", it loping rhythm reminiscent of "Walk On Gilded Splinters" from the Doctors late sixties "Gris Gris" album.
For anybody new to the music of Dr john this is not the place to start, but long standing fans will have to find shelf space for this.
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