Review of Tribal Album by Dr John

If you sound this good approaching your 70th birthday, you'll have an awful lot to be thankful for. After fifty years recording Dr John is still able to deliver. Sounding as good as ever, Dr John, the multi-Grammy winning national institution of New Orleans makes it appear oh so simple.

The consummate ease with which this album flows along would seem to be instinctive. It's almost as if it has become second nature, like making the mornings toast or ...................breathing. Dr John lays down the tunes so casually and coolly that you wonder, can it really be that easy? Is he that good, that cool, so immeasurably immersed in his music and craft that a song can seemingly be born out of nothing and joyously crafted before your ears?

The Jazz infusions, and bluesy licks only help draw the listener into Dr John's world of Gumbo, Creole, Cajun and Voodoo. You are quickly, and effortlessly, aurally transported way down into The Deep South with the dear Dr's Feel Good Music. "Call me Doc, your medicine man, I've got the cure in the palm of my hand." The honky tonk of the piano adding to the deliciously swampy flavour of the opening tune.

Dr John Tribal Album

His voice is equally at home with a boom or a caress, with the kick of Captain Jack or the comfort of maple syrup. Creating moods as opposite as Algiers is to New Orleans, Dr John can guide you down through the bars on Bourbon Street or steer you on the paddle steamer down the Mississippi.

Funky horns, think Shaft or James Brown, ring out intermittently, When I'm Right (I'm Wrong), Whut's Wit Dat, whilst the big 60's organ sounds, and particularly impressive percussive treatments, thread through all 16 tracks on Tribal. The whole atmosphere washes you in a fabulous haze of seedy, bluesy nightlife like a fly on the wall to a party you'd been dying to go to but thought never get the chance. Dr John immerses you in a world he's helped create with his musical compositions.

Lyrical highlights are littered throughout Tribal. Some, like Jinky Jinx, are delivered aptly enough in an almost animated, Tom & Jerry, cartoon style......."Broke a mirror, shattered in a million pieces, for years I lived a good life, suddenly it ceases." whilst elsewhere the state of the American economy and its residents eating habits are called into question.

In Tribal, Dr John & The Lower 911 have produced a terrific fusion of Blues, Jazz, Swing and Honky Tonk. At 16 tracks it is a little bloated and as the album unfolds it does make you wonder, if he can make it sound as easy as it is, what would the result be if it were more focused, or challenging? What if he thought, I know I'm good at making toast, but, today I'm going to have a go at making omelette?

Andrew Lockwood.

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