New Release (Nonesuch)
Dr. John’s made his share of strong albums in recent years, from the searing post-Katrina report The City That Care Forgot to last year’s voodoo-funk fest, Tribal. So is this one — which is getting far more attention thanks to Black Key Dan Auerbach’s production — really all that different? Well, yes. Rest assured that Auerbach hasn’t done a Jack White and remade the artist in his own image. Rather he seems to have absorbed the Doctor’s whole catalogue, especially the groundbreaking early albums (“Ice Age” could be a lost track from 1969’s foreboding Babylon). He’s shaken up the instrumental sound, getting Dr. John to play more guitar and less of his trademark piano; and brought back the female choruses. Most of all though, he’s pushed Dr. John to hone his songwriting instead of hinging the album on grooves; and at least two of these tracks — the fatherly “My Children, My Angels” and the joyful “God’s Sure Good”– show a side of him that’s seldom been aired before. So while the album is wildly eclectic, with an Afrobeat groove and a garagey tremolo guitar likely to appear on the same track (“You Lie”), the tunes always get just what they call for.