Dr. John is a pure New Orleans patron saint, though on Mercenary, he shakes the tree of American music history to blend a sound traversing many eras. With no intention of mimicking, the doctor puts a sexy, gritty soul into the classics of Johnny Mercer. The result is music just as current now is it was when Mac Rebbenac first became the Night Tripper decades ago.
From the first notes, he puts honest pain into every sung note, and yet all songs include a jumping celebratory feel. The drums hit the downbeat hard, with swagger, while the piano could be just as comfortable in a symphony hall or the Old Point Bar. The compositions balance that delicate blend of technical mastery and common world gala that make the old styles of New Orleans intensely significant to all American music. Applying the Delta to the classic ballads of Mercer could have backfired into ham, but rather it exaggerated the parallels across genres. A gorgeous time capsule with a hard beat.
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