March 30, 2012


Dr. John's Unlikely New Partner (STEVE DOUGHERTY, 3/30/12, WSJ)

On record and stage, where as Dr. John he performed in a voodoo headdress and alligator- and lizard-skin coat, with a mummified human head hanging from a microphone stand, Mr. Rebennack conjured what he called a "fonky gumbo" of sounds. Spiked with chanted spells and the psychedelia of the day, the stew's stock was drawn from the music he absorbed growing up in the Third Ward of New Orleans--the birthplace he shares with one of American music's prime creators and where he began his own professional career as a child guitar and boogie-piano prodigy. "Once upon a time we were the youngsters and Louis Armstrong heard all the music before him and passed it on to us," Mr. Rebennack, now 71, says of the jazz great he reveres. "Now we're the elders and it's like a duty to keep it all alive and pass it down." [...]

"I think it was very mystical how this all came together," Mr. Rebennack says during a phone conversation from his home in New Orleans. "Before I ever heard of the Black Keys, my granddaughter gave me one of their records. Then the next thing I know, Dan calls me out of the blue." That chat, followed by a trip Mr. Auerbach made to New Orleans for a visit, led to the two appearing together at last year's 10th anniversary Bonnaroo Festival, the annual Tennessee music carnival that takes its name from a 1974 Dr. John album. That jam in turn led to the "Locked Down" sessions last September at Mr. Auerbach's studio in Nashville. Mr. Auerbach, who assembled an adventurous group of young hip-hop-, rock- and funk-savvy musicians, including Black Keys tour veterans Nick Movshon (bass) and Leon Michels (keyboards), for the recording, hopes the results will help Mr. Rebennack reach a generation of fans who may not be aware how richly he has influenced the music they embrace today.

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Posted by at March 30, 2012 4:42 AM

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