Photo by Scott Preston
‘Tribal,’ the extraordinary new album by Dr. John (August 3, 429 Records), shows this great American artist at the pinnacle of his creative powers, making what might be the most complete statement of his musical and personal identity in his 50-year career.
Recorded with his band “The Lower 911,” ‘Tribal’ also includes some of the down ‘n’ dirtiest tracks Dr. John has recorded since 1968’s iconic ‘Gris Gris.’
Replete with swamp rock, funk, Creole voodoo, and Mardi Gras Indian chants, ‘Tribal’ resurrects the magical persona of “The Night Tripper” in his full regalia. At the same time, Dr. John displays the rippling piano licks, Cajun-fried humor and sharp political observation that have helped make him a national spokesman for post-Katrina New Orleans – and an indelible presence on the hit HBO New Orleans drama, “Treme.”
From its opening statement, “Feel Good Music,” Dr. John sets the tone: “Feel good music, doctorate your bones… Call me doc, your medicine man / I got a cure in the palm of my hand…” The title cut, “Tribal,” featuring an actual Mardi Gras Indian chief, invokes the spirit of the tribes with references to their solidarity and the sacred healing powers of music.
As always, Dr. John has a little help from his friends: NOLA legend Allen Toussaint contributes two songs; and three songs were co-written with the late, great Bobby Charles, a Louisiana legend himself, to whom Dr. John dedicates the album. Other guest stars include slide guitar phenom Derek Trucks and jazz great Donald Harrison on alto sax.
The Lower 911 is: Herman “Roscoe” Ernest III – drums, percussion, vocals; David Barard – bass, vocals; John Fohl – guitar, vocals; Kenneth “Afro” Williams – percussion. The album was produced by Herman “Roscoe” Ernest III and Dr. John in New Orleans.
‘Tribal’ includes the tracks:
Feel Good Music
Lissen at Our Prayer
Change of Heart
When I’m Right (I’m Wrong)
Only in Amerika
Whut’s Wit Dat
A Place in the Sun
Dr. John, known to friends and family as Mac Rebennack, is widely regarded as New Orleans’ foremost musical ambassador. As “Treme” creator David Simon puts it: “This guy has the whole history of New Orleans music in his head.” A Grammy winner five times over, Dr. John’s previous album, 2008’s ‘City That Care Forgot,’ won the Grammy for “Best Contemporary Blues Album.” Post-Katrina, Dr. John has emerged as one of the most vocal advocates for rebuilding his beloved city of New Orleans. He continues to dazzle and delight audiences all over the world with his tireless touring.