One of the great musicians and songwriters, Malcolm John “Mac” Rebennack Jr. – aka Dr. John – combined musical influences like a player pulling the lever on a casino slot machine. Jazz, blues, R&B, rock and the funk of his native New Orleans only scratch the surface of the good doctor’s adept ability to transcend genres.
dr John also had a deep appreciation for classic country and western music, songs he first heard as a boy in his father’s record store. as dr John died of a heart attack in 2019 while he was finishing a new album that would finally indulge his passion for country music. Now fans can hear the stunning results.
That’s how things happen—the Garden & Weapon premieres today – includes a mix of originals by Dr. John as well as covers of songs by Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Sr. and others. dr John lays down a smoldering groove with his slow-burning rendition of Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away,” and Nelson trades Lines with Dr. John on a tattered but cute cover of the country tradition hit Give Me The Old Time Religion. dr John pays homage to Williams with a bouncy version of “Ramblin’ Man” and a tired “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” New Orleans icon Aaron Neville joins an upbeat, horn-heavy rendition of the Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line.”
But the album meets with Dr. John’s original material on Paydirt. The dusty country lament of “Holy Water” nods to his time in prison for drug possession in the ’60s, followed by the lively “Sleeping Dogs Best Left Alone” and the nostalgic funk of “Give Myself a Good Talkin’ To.” Lukas Nelson – Willie’s son – and his band Promise of the Real steer a re-imagining of Dr. John’s classic I Walk on Guilded Splinters, which first appeared on his 1968 debut album. Gris Gris. The new version turns the spooky voodoo atmosphere of the original into a massive epic that sounds like Lukas, Dr. John and Pink Floyd all jamming in a West Texas bar.
“He loved Hank Williams because of the stories in his songs,” says Karla Pratt, Dr. John’s daughter and executor. “He also loved the sound of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, who were not only a country music inspiration but also a longtime friend. Dad paid close attention to how these greats composed songs that resonated with you, and he wanted to do it in his own style. He really hoped to have both Willie and Lukas on this album.”
Released on Rounder Records, things happen like that provides a deeply intimate coda for Dr. John’s six-decade career (although there are rumors more projects could be on the way). As his pal, veteran television producer Ken Ehrlich, writes in the album’s liner notes, “You just don’t listen to anyone [Dr. John] Album the way you listen to others. You play a track, maybe move on to the next, and then come back to what you were listening to before because you know you missed some of the magic, and your ears are now ready for a second hit on the bottle. “ Do that twice.
Listen things happen like that under. The album will be released this Friday, September 23rd and can be pre-ordered here.