Album Review: Dr. John – Locked Down

Instant classic. That’s pretty much the only way to sum up Dr. John‘s latest album Locked Down. From the opening song to the tenth & final, this album brings a sense of throwback yet modern energy that is simply remarkable. Many people are bringing up Dr. John’s classic album Gris Gris in comparison to this album, which is accurate in one sense but completely off-base in others. While this album has that rich completeness of Gris Gris and seems like it will stand the test of time in a similar manner, the sound is nothing alike. Where Gris Gris was this avant garde, abstract, and altogether weird journey through swampy psychedelia, Locked Down is a straightforward, gritty rhythm approach to Dr. John’s trademark New Orleans growl.

It’s not too difficult to pin down the source of this updated approach. This album was produced by Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) who is as close to the King Midas of music as it gets — everything Auerbach touches turns to gold. It’s not like Dr. John needs much help to achieve gold, but Auerbach’s influence is ubiquitous and lifts this album to a rarefied height. His touch is especially apparent on “Getaway,” this Southern rock-fused-with-funk tune that absolutely bursts at the seams. Dr. John’s inimitable voice holds this track down, but it’s the rugged guitar licks from Auerbach, the bouncy bassline, and vocal harmonies that push this song to funky rock perfection. But the true stand out song on the album is “Eleggua,” a rhythm-driven, New Orleans funk monster featuring an unexpected & beautiful flute melody. The organs and guitar are used in perfect, subtle accompaniment roles that allow Dr. John’s snarling voice to cut like a knife through mud. This is a nearly flawless song in every conceivable way.

Simply put, there are no holes in this album. From start to finish the production of this album is absolutely top notch. It’s really an awesome thing to hear Dr. John’s voice with such a forward-moving, rock-based approach. Whereas recent albums lacked a certain completeness of the sound, often focusing far too much on his voice/lyrics, that’s not the case this time. This album is a beast through and through. We don’t like to assign grades or numerical values to albums at Soundfuse, but this album is about as close to a perfect ten as we’ve heard in 2012. This might be Dr. John’s best album ever. Which is quite a feat considering his robust and storied career. Do NOT hesitate. Pick this album up immediately.

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Jeremy Frazier is the editor-in-chief of Soundfuse.