Dr. John – Locked Down

written by: April 18, 2012
Release Date: Apr. 3, 2012


Already a paradigm of bayou blues, Dr. John has remained prolific and relevant in today’s modern times. The release of Locked Down ushers in a new wave of modernity on John’s music, especially with producer and Black Keys pillar Dan Auerbach. Packed into the 10-track record is the true embodiment of southern blues. Roots, horns, spice, every single blues music cliché—this album has it all, yet it couldn’t sound fresher or more innovative.

“Locked Down” kicks off the record with funky organs and clean vocals with soul. A tamed background choir complements the song nicely without becoming overpowered, as is common with many big-band soul-influenced albums. At five minutes, “Locked Down” is a hefty intro to swallow, but look past the television theme song chorus jangling in your cerebellum and you’ll be in for a lo-fi reggae-blues treat.

The melodic, nearly spoken vocals of “Big Shot” are reminiscent of Cab Calloway and are built up by a steady horn section and intricate drums. The repeated refrain “another big shot” would come off as painfully egotistical with any other artist. But when it comes to an artist with as much clout, who sings with as much understated confidence, as Dr. John, the lyrics are painfully honest. Dr. John’s lyrics are classic but still clever, with introspections regarding the nature of love and the trivialities of life streaming through each song.

Marking the midpoint of the 10-track album, “Getaway” begins with an infectious keyboard introduction and wastes no time in incorporating the rest of the restrained but undeniably skilled backing band. “Getaway” is the most successful track in meshing vocal and musical elements in nicotine-laced blues harmony. “Getaway” closes with a vicious guitar solo that injects a welcomed change of pace into the track. Ending with a short stab of feedback, listeners are reminded of the basis of Dr. John’s sound—stripped down, rootsy music that speaks to the pathos of music, not the rules or the confines.

What can only be described as a song capable of scoring both a grand heist and a steamy romantic encounter, “You Lie” is a standout cut off of Locked Down. Preachy and unassuming vocals contend with a full horn section to weave an unexpectedly bitter tail of deceit.

“My Children, My Angels” is the most wrenching of the tracks and provides a small glimpse through the opaque stoicism of the blues crooner. Made evident by increasingly intricate arrangements and more deliberate vocal delivery, both John and the song as a whole gain strength throughout the course of the song. Even with these five minutes of emotional inventory, Dr. John manages to maintain the careless shrugs and guffaws that characterize his nonchalant style.

With more albums than can logically be conceived under his belt, Dr. John has managed to reinvent the very style he defined. A true man of his craft, Dr. John has thrown his heart and soul into Locked Down, at least as much that isn’t still down in the bayou.

Dr. John – Locked Down tracklist:

  1. “Locked Down”
  2. “Revolution”
  3. “Big Shot”
  4. “Ice Age”
  5. “Getaway”
  6. “Kingdom of Izzness”
  7. “You Lie”
  8. “Eleggua”
  9. “My Children, My Angels”
  10. “God’s Sure Good”