The 73-year-old music legend and New Orleans icon blends styles as naturally as his hometown’s famed gumbo combines culinary influences, borrowing liberally from swampy funk, blues, jazz, vintage R&B, zydeco and whatever other genres might cross his path. Heck, even his speech is a hodgepodge of real and invented words. Portraying himself on the first season of the HBO series “Treme,” for one, he noted a charity appearance might cause “confusementalism amongst the Lincoln Center set.”
Born Malcolm John Rebennack Jr., the good doctor has since evolved into an outlandish character whose persona, like New Orleans itself, is colorful, outsized and vaguely mystical. In contrast, the songs on Locked Up, his killer, Dan Auerbach-produced 2012 album, tend to be steeped in harsher realities. Witness the chilling, R&B-stoked groove of “Ice Age,” where Dr. John applies his gnarled-root vocals to tales of drug addiction, poverty and prison. “At the end of our roads,” he huffs. “Ain’t no age of innocence, ladies and gents.”
Molly Winters also performs.
Photo courtesy of Dr. John