Dr. John

Jackpot Records, 2018

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


This 1968 debut album from Dr. John sees the reissue treatment on its 50th Anniversary. It's resurrected from the original master tapes, with the original mono mix and on swamp green vinyl, too.

“Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya” brings mandolins, harmonicas, hand drums, and guitars to the raw gospel and soul-flavored affair, where spirited vocals back Dr. John's mix of talking and singing. “Danse Kalinda Boom” follows with organs, flutes, bells congas, and other noisemakers to the cultured, chanting and lively tune. Further along, “Mama Roux” brings R&B influences to the groove friendly and highly melodic track, and “Danse Fambeaux” finishes Side A with reckless rhythms and Dr. John's vocal acrobatics on a lo-fi excursion into an iconoclastic mind. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The second side starts with the instrumental “Croaker Courtbullion,” where jazz sensibilities are present, though certainly not in any traditional sort of ways. On the somewhat normal “Jump Sturdy,” Dr. John produces a tune that’s almost classifiable; he shows us his inimitable vocals on a this swampy rock 'n' roll classic. “I Walked On Guilded Splinters” ends the record with the most unusual tune, where clarinets, soft percussion, and a calm setting of blues, jazz, and offbeat rock 'n' roll accompany eight minutes of exploration.

An album that has stood the test of time well, Gris-gris gained Dr. John a strong cult following that would be present until his recent death in 2019, and for good reason; his willingness to toss away all songwriting convention and essentially find a sound of his own that's difficult to describe but easy to enjoy make this a truly special piece in music history.

Dr. John earned himself six Grammy Awards and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during his lifetime, but perhaps most importantly, he was a prolific artist and played and recorded up until his death, always taking the road less traveled and finding new ways of unfiltered expression.

Rating: A-

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© 2019 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Jackpot Records, and is used for informational purposes only.