Dr. John – Things Happen That Way (2022)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 39:03 minutes | 426 MB | Genre: Country
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Rounder
Over the course of his six-decade-long career, Dr. John embodied a near-mythic multitude of musical identities: global ambassador of New Orleans funk and jazz and R&B, visionary bluesman, rock and roll innovator, one-time top 10 hitmaker, self-anointed and massively revered high priest of psychedelic voodoo. On ‘Things Happen That Way’, the six-time Grammy-winning Rock & Roll Hall of Famer otherwise known as Malcolm John ‘Mac’ Rebennack Jr. reveals yet another dimension of his cosmically vast musicality: a lifelong affinity for classic country & western, whose songs he first encountered via the 78 rpm records frequently spun at his father’s electronics shop.
Malcolm John “Mac” Rebennack, Jr., aka Dr. John, was one of few New Orleans musicians to earn a reputation outside of Louisiana. His alluring alchemy of prodigious musical talent and love of psychedelic voodoo stretched across five decades, both as a session player and a solo leader. The late Dr., who died in 2019, and Shane Theriot—who both produced and plays on the album—gathered a first-class group of local players at the gorgeous Esplanade Studios with engineer Misha Kachkachishvili, and Music Shed Studios with engineer Jack Miele, to cut a collection of old favorites and well-known country music classics which make for a fitting and compelling swan song. The recording quality is clear and unadorned, focused on Rebennack’s weathered voice and instinctual keyboard skills. Theriot, also a New Orleans native and who has carved out a distinguished career playing with a variety of musicians including The Neville Brothers and Hall & Oates (for whom he is currently musical director), plays guitars, bass and even cardboard box drum.
The final Dr. John album opens appropriately with a version of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away” which plays in a relaxed New Orleans piano professor style. Rebennack and Nelson make a creaky but authentic duo on the traditional “Gimme That Old Time Religion,” which also features a pair of masterful New Orleanians in drummer Herlin Riley and keyboardist Jon Cleary. Perhaps the most Dr. John-like tune is “I Walk on Guilded Splinters,” a wonderfully low-down groove he first recorded for his 1968 debut Gris-Gris. Of the pair of Hank Williams covers, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” with the Dr.’s low, whispery, croaky vocals accompanied by Theriot on lap steel, is most memorable. The Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line,” fitted with a second line rhythm and a horn section, features guest vocals by Katie Pruitt and Aaron Neville, the latter of whom’s voice has sadly lost more than a step. Pruitt returns on “Holy Water,” a new Rebennack original that chronicles his heroin addiction: “I can hear my momma sayin’ boy whatcha doin’/ You don’t change, you go straight to ruin.” Last records are always telling, if sad, both for the players involved and the listeners who survive, and yet Things Happen That Way celebrates Dr. John in a way that rings utterly true to the man and his music. – Robert Baird
1-1. Dr. John – Funny How Time Slips Away (04:37)
1-2. Dr. John – Ramblin’ Man (03:52)
1-3. Dr. John – Gimme That Old Time Religion (03:24)
1-4. Dr. John – I Walk On Guilded Splinters (04:53)
1-5. Dr. John – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (02:59)
1-6. Dr. John – End Of The Line (04:12)
1-7. Dr. John – Holy Water (03:24)
1-8. Dr. John – Sleeping Dogs Best Left Alone (03:59)
1-9. Dr. John – Give Myself A Good Talkin’ To (03:54)
1-10. Dr. John – Guess Things Happen That Way (03:44)