As with his album of Ellington covers, Duke Elegant, Dr John's Mercernary focuses on the work of a single mid-20th century artist, the songwriter Johnny Mercer, the choicest moments from whose songbook receive the Doctor's trademark New Orleans R&B treatment. The seed for the project came from his daughter's observation that "Personality" (not a Mercer original, but covered by him) would suit his style to a T. And so it does, his stretched-out, bluesy lines echoed by some of the sleaziest trumpet responses ever put to tape, courtesy of Charlie Miller. Fired by its success, the Doctor set about combing through Mercer's own material for other songs to cover: "Lazy Bones", of course, a perfect fit for his laid-back smoky manner; and less obvious versions of "I'm an Old Cow Hand" and "That Old Black Magic", treated as samba and funked-up rumba-rocker. But others are less successful: "Come Rain or Come Shine" is merely routine, and "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby", despite his bohemian take on the subject (viz "You must have been a hip little child", etc) bears scant resemblance to the tune actually written by Mercer.
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