Home » Jazz Articles » Dr John: Things Happen That Way

Album Review

Dr John: Things Happen That Way


Sign in to view read count
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.


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

Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

Post a comment about this album



Full Circle
Nadje Noordhuis
Rite Of Strings Live at Montreux 1994
Al Di Meola / Jean-Luc Ponty / Stanley Clarke
Kevin Fort


Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.