| 12.5°C Dublin

The doctor finds the key to new success

Review: Dr John Locked Down (Nonesuch)

Mac Rebennack, aka Dr John, helped map our world of rock'n'roll weirdness.

A mate once watched him on a superstar studio session in London as he traded organ licks with a bunch of rock gods from the Stones and Cream, pausing only to throw up in a bucket beside the organ.

Mac told me he was on the run from local gangsters in New Orleans when he pitched up in Los Angeles and became Dr John, creating a heady gumbo of soulful New Orleans funk, voodoo histrionics and psychedelic freak-outs.

Tracks from his albums Gris-Gris and In The Right Place remain essential staples of a top Rare Groove night.


Since his album of Duke Ellington tracks (Duke Elegant) 12 years ago, the dude's recorded output has been less than inspiring. However, the hoodoo man has his mojo working again - thanks to Dan Auerbach.

Main man in the Black Keys, Auerbach is the hippest man on the planet right now. A string of excellent albums, including a solo collection, testify to his ability to tap into the raw nuclear core at the heart of rock'n'roll.

And his collaborations with Danger Mouse show an understanding of how to mix the past and the future to rock the present. When Auerback declares, "Mac's one of the greatest who ever was and who ever will be..." it pays to listen up.

Ice Age uses an African-sounding riff to transport Dr John back to his Night Tripper era. "Ain't no age of innocence, ladies and gents," he warns through a steaming soup of jerky percussion, ethereal voices and cheap electronic keyboards.

Tom Waits is just one showbiz commodity who orbits Dr John's dark star. None share Mac's direct, street-hustler wisdom.

"Religious delusions. Stoned confusion. Rebellion, revolution, is this the final solution?" he drawls on Revolution, an angry meditation on the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

Thanks to Auerbach, the Doctor is working with a bunch of free-thinking progressives who shock and surprise with every riff.

"Never gonna be another Big Shot like me," croaks Mac. Damn right.