Dr. John

The Legendary Sessions Volume Two

The damage that Hurricane Katrina caused in the Gulf Coast was immense. The storm destroyed lives, homes and even some of the documents that kept many of its municipalities' legal systems intact.

One thing that Katrina could not destroy was the music that made New Orleans, LA so historic.

Evidence of that is Dr. John's latest dip into his own archives in the form of the February 21, 2006 release "Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack: The Legendary Sessions Volume Two". The follow up to its 2002 predecessor showcases Dr. John with just his voice and piano. Both albums were released under the Clean Cuts record label.

It's a traditional look at New Orleans told with music. With just those two instruments, Dr. John clearly relates to the characters in the songs and accurately conveys their emotions. Both volumes were recorded in 1981 when Dr. John had come to a crossroads in his career. On both "Legendary Sessions," Dr. John's depicts the world around him from the outside, but manages to bring the listener in for a journey with each song's characters. Its raw presentation brings the listener into the studio during a time when raw music was rare. Dr. John was and has remained in a small class of mainstream performers who have stayed true to their form and made music designed to evoke emotions not to sell albums.

Dr. John's boogie-woogie, voodoo style of the blues did not evolve until the 1970s. He was a teenager known as Mac Rebbenack in the late-1950s when he first made his mark in the music industry. Since then, Dr. John has been an inspirational force, creating music that is always an original and eclectic gumbo of numerous styles.

It was 1968's psychedelic "Gris Gris" that established Dr. John and since then he has played with Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, the Beatles, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Earl King and The Meters. His music has always managed to be innovative and before its time, while remaining simple and funky.

Even without the psychedelic backdrop, both "Legendary Sessions" versions show Dr. John's ability to deliver a pulsating and steady rhythm. "Your Average Kind of Guy" (Volume Two) is an ode the ordinary man with no story to tell. Yet, Dr. John never tells a story without class and creativity. On each track, Dr. John shows that he can boogie above all the rest. He conveys a wide range of emotions with clarity, while showcasing the traditional blues without his patented pyschedelic backdrop.

One can only wait for Dr. John to release his next recording with a full band, but these two volumes of works should be added to the collection of any fan of the blues or traditional music. As music continues to evolve sometimes into something that is hard to stomach, it's comforting to know that legendary sessions such as these have been captured and preserved in the archives.

Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and njcoast.com. He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.