Album: Dr John

N'Awlinz: Dis Dat or D'Udda, Parlophone
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The Independent Culture

Recent Dr John albums have been sidetracks involving collaborations with Britpoppers and tributes to Duke Ellington, so it's a relief to find him back on course.

Recent Dr John albums have been sidetracks involving collaborations with Britpoppers and tributes to Duke Ellington, so it's a relief to find him back on course. N'Awlinz returns to the musical well of his native city, quite brilliantly. "Marie Lavau" is a Gris-Gris-style account of the fable of the voodoo Witch Queen of New Orleans; "Stakalee" is a rolling piano version of the standard, cushioned by a lovely Wardell Quezergue horn arrangement; "Chickee Le Pas" is another foray into Mardi Gras Indian dialect; and Mavis Staples brings the appropriate gospel depth to a stately version of "When the Saints Go Marchin' In". A similarly laidback reading of Dave Bartholomew's morality tale "The Monkey (Speaks His Mind)" features the trumpeter soloing over the swampy groove, and there are superb versions of "St James Infirmary" and "Lay My Burden Down" (aka "Glory, Glory Hallelujah"), the latter featuring Staples again. Guests include BB King and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown on the risqué "Hen Layin' Rooster", Randy Newman on "I Ate Up the Apple Tree", Willie Nelson on "Such a Much" and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band on "Life Is a One-Way Ticket", in which the doctor tells us to spend rather than hoard our money, on the grounds that "I ain't never seen no armoured car behind a funeral yet".

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