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Dr John: Things Happen That Way

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Dr John: Things Happen That Way
Interviewing the late Dr John aka The Night Tripper aka Dr John Creaux aka Mac Rebennack was a pleasure. Witty, erudite and b.s. free, he was reliably good copy. On one occasion he was an hour late and obviously, totally and spectacularly off his face. "If I nod out," he said, "kick me on the shin." The doctor was in... and out.

Things Happen That Way has turned out to be Dr John's last recorded studio album, and it rises to the occasion. It is the Night Tripper at his gumbo best, a joyous, uplifting mix of New Orleans funk, jazz, blues and country rock, a healing Americana which laughs at ethnic and regional boundaries. Listen to the impossibly funky arrangement of Hank Williams Sr.'s country classic "Ramblin' Man" and try not to gasp with delight. Another Williams song, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," is the only one of the ten tracks which is delivered mono-stylistically, in relatively straight country fashion.

Dr John is accompanied by a deeply empathetic band and chorus, plus a handful of guest artists. The Neville Brothers' Aaron Neville duets on vocals on the Traveling Wilbury's "End Of The Line," Willie Nelson duets on the traditional "Gimme That Old Time Religion" (on which he also adds a guitar solo), and his son Lukas Nelson and Promise Of The Real are the back-up band on a remake of "I Walk On Guilded Splinters," from the Night Tripper's voodoo-drenched debut, Gris-Gris, released on Atco in 1968 (check the YouTube below). Other Mac Rebennack originals are "Holy Water," "Sleeping Dogs Best Left Alone" and "Give Myself A Good Talkin' To." Solid gold, each of them. The album ends with an affecting reading of Jack Henderson Clement's "Guess Things Happen That Way."

Remarkably, Dr John lived a decently lengthy life, passing in 2019 aged 77 years, a span aided no doubt by his finally freeing himself from heroin thirty years earlier. Things Happen That Way is a fine epitath.

Track Listing

Funny How Time Slips Away; Ramblin' Man; Gimme That Old Time Religion; I Walk On Guilded Splinters; I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry; End Of The Line; Holy Water; Sleeping Dogs Best Left Alone; Give Myself A Good Talkin' To; Guess Things Happen That Way.

Personnel

Dr. John: piano; Shane Theriot: guitar; Tony Hall: bass, electric; Carlo Nuccio: drums; David Torkanowsky: keyboards; Mark Mullins: trombone; Alonzo Bowens: saxophone, tenor; Leonard Brown: trumpet; Jon Cleary: voice / vocals; Herlin Riley: drums; Yolanda Robinson: voice / vocals; Jolynda Chapman: voice / vocals.

Additional Instrumentation

Dr John: vocals, piano, keyboards, co-production; Shane Theriot: electric, acoustic, lap steel and baritone guitars, cardboard box drum, co-production; Jon Cleary: additional keyboards, Hammond B3 organ.

Album information

Title: Things Happen That Way | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Rounder Records


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