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Album review: Dr. John's 'Tribal'

August 3, 2010 |  6:22 am

Dr_john_tribal_240 In his last outing, 2008’s “The City That Care Forgot,” New Orleans pianist-singer-composer-hoodoo guru Mac Rebennack, a.k.a. Dr. John, focused on the hardships and enduring joys going of post-Katrina life in his battered but unbeaten hometown.

He hasn’t remotely given up his campaign to keep attention on the injustices and frustrations that New Orleans denizens are still wrangling with five years later, but this time out, he also devotes part of his time to looking at affairs of the heart as only the language-twisting Crescent City R&B-funk master can: “You use your trickeration to keep po’ me in debt.... Trick-knowledge-a-size me into yo’ net,” he complains in the wickedly sassy “Manoovas.”

He also questions why his lover is so contentious in “When I’m Right I’m Wrong” and why he can’t get his mojo working in the strutting “Jinky Jinx,” in which he resurrects the Night Tripper persona that brought him to the fore as a performer in the late ‘60s.

Sociologically, he’s still railing at the disparities he sees across the land of the free, which probably explains the deep funk, musically and lyrically, that Rebennack displays: “There’s big gulf between the haves and nots/How did the haves get what they got?” he ponders/accuses in “Big Gap.” 

Sometimes the message overwhelms the music, but largely the good doctor tends to the sick without letting the well-heeled off the hook.

— Randy Lewis

Dr. John
“Tribal”
(429 Records)
Three stars (Out of four)


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