Night trippin' for near about a half-century now, Mac Rebennack, in his guise as the gris-gris totin' Dr. John, has been puttin' a serious hoit (as they used to say in the Lower Ninth Ward) on the 88s, tapping into and invigorationatin' (as he might say) the unique traditions of New Orleans piano playing and songwriting for so long he himself has achieved icon status. He is so cloaked in the essence of the Crescent City—from the patois to the hoodoo spirit to his encyclopedic knowledge of NOLA musical history—that he has become a symbol of the beleaguered City That Care—and lately the rest of the world—Forgot. Much to his credit, Mac has been in the forefront of lambasting those responsible for the catastrophes that keep turning the Big Easy into anything but, most prominently the botched response to Katrina and now the gulf oil fiasco. Consequently, Dr. John's last few releases have been sputtering with rage. His new Tribal, however, channels that still-prevalent anger into more philosophical musings—in his inimitable style—on the twisted state of the world, especially in Louisiana. Rather than just venting, Mac invokes that distinctly quirky NOLA sense of humor to try to make sense of the nonsensical. He acknowledges the medicinal power of song ("Feel Good Music"), riffs on a litany of evils ("Only in Amerika"), even gives some surprising nutritional advice ("Whut's Wit Dat"), while conjuratin' a luscious, expansive Crescent City sound that slyly touches on jazz, second line funk, Fess, Mardi Gras Indians, and Creole composer Louis Gottschalk.
Thursdays, Fridays, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. Starts: Aug. 12. Continues through Aug. 13, 2010