Dr. JOHN and The Lower 911 – City That Care Forgot 2008

Dr. JOHN and The Lower 911 – City That Care Forgot 2008

Blues

“Life is a near death experience
Hell is right here on this great big Earth
It could be a little taste of heaven
If we only knew our worth
All we got to do is want it bad enough
To push ourself through
We always underestimate ourselves
We do every day we can always do better
In each and every way
If we don’t believe in ourselves
Nobody’s gonna do it
If we don’t push ourselves
We’ll never make it through it…”
**
The City That Care Forgot follows Dr. John’s (aka Mac Rebennack’s) brilliant 2006 Mercernary set based on Johnny Mercer tunes. Given that this recording, like 2005’s emergency benefit EP Sippiana Hericane, is rather political in nature, one can assume it’s an entirely different animal than Mercernary…but is it? Since the good Doc has his fantastic Lower 911 band in tow (they played on both of the previous outings), we can count on some deeply funky, New Orleans second-line R&B, blues, and jazz grooves, despite the socially conscious nature of the lyrics. The set was recorded in Maurice, LA, and produced by Mac and Herman Roscoe Ernest. There is a load of “name” guests here, which is a mixed blessing in at least one case. Eric Clapton makes his second sideman appearance this year — the first was on Steve Winwood’s brilliant Nine Lives — playing excellent spooky blues guitar on three tracks here: the title (with Ani DiFranco on backing vocals and guitar), the strutting R&B whomp of “Time for a Change,” (an exhortation to vote), and the deep, driven funk of “Stripped Away.” (Perhaps he should quit making his own records and take up the sideman gig permanently, because these appearances are stellar.) In addition, Terence Blanchard makes a pair of appearances on the voodoo stroll of “We Gettin’ There,” and the popping backline, jazzy funk of “Land Grab.” So far, so good: but why is Willie Nelson here? His duet vocal on “Promises, Promises” — not the Burt Bacharach tune — drags this uptempo, swaggering Mardi Gras rhythm track into the suburbs. It’s lifeless. Terrance Simien makes a fine appearance on the album closer “Save Our Wetlands,” and the badass horns of James “12” Andrews and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews make “My People Need a Second Line” an authentic example. It should also be noted that the great Bobby Charles co-wrote five tunes with Mac, and authored “Promises, Promises” all by his lonesome. The man is killing it as a writer — if only he’d record more!

The vibe on this record dances all over the map. It’s very consistent with that one exception. The music gets all dark, moody, and hoodoo in places, à la the sinister tracks on 1998’s Anutha Zone, or his Atlantic recording period. In the cuts “Dream Warrior” and the title track, the anger expressed may result in a real life hex. Elsewhere, the Doc and Lower 911 offer more upbeat musical reflections that walk the razor’s fine line between rage and hope, as on “You Might Be Surprised” (with its gorgeous strings and honky tonk piano), the mucky horn and clavinet funk that drives “Say Whut?,” and the jazzy R&B of the opener “Keep on Goin’.” “Save Our Wetlands” and “My People Need a Second Line” carry hope, and there’s a strident “never surrender” message in what is some of the most joyous music imaginable. The character of New Orleans cultural — and particularly musical — heritage is everywhere present on this disc, and its personnel reflects it: the legendary Wardell Quezergue arranges horns on a couple of cuts. And the horn section is comprised of Crescent City residents Alonzo Bowens, Jason Mingeldorff, and Charlie Miller. Add to this the killer backing vocals of Tyrone Aiken, and percussion by Kenneth “Afro” Williams and Herman V. Ernest III, and it’s a homespun party. Despite the serious nature of the lyrics on City That Care Forgot, the music is pure Dr. John doing everything he does best and, as evidenced by his last four or five outings, he’s more consistent in the early 2000s than at any time in his long career.
By Thom Jurek, All Music Guide.
**
Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Ani Difranco and Terence Blanchard join Dr. John and the Lower 911 in this musical paean to Dr. John’s beloved New Orleans. This powerful new recording features stirring and thought-provoking songs about the post-Katrina crises in the ravaged jewel of the American South, including “City That Care Forgot,” “Time for a Change,” “Promises, Promises,” “We Gettin’ There” and many more.
**
Few protest albums have the percolating groove appeal of Dr. John’s City That Care Forgot. If not for lyrics like “the road to the White House, paved with lies” the song “Promises, Promises” would be a typically chipper New Orleans second-line strut. And “You Might Be Surprised” sounds like the kind of horn-and-strings-colored blues that has always been part of the piano giant’s repertoire — until its darker hues come through in the lines “life is a near death experience/Hell is right here on this great big Earth.” Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of Dr. John’s beloved hometown and the following years of neglect sparked these 13 angry songs. The government, insurance companies and developers, and still-lingering institutional racism take a whooping with help from Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Terence Blanchard, Ani DiFranco, and Terrance Simien in cameo appearances. The zenith is a suite — “Dream Warrior,” “Black Gold,” “We Getting There” — whose brooding imagery, funky keyboards, Latin percussion, and dramatic horns recall the great Blaxploitation movie music of the ’70s. On the flip side “My People Need a Second Line” speaks to the resilience of New Orleans culture, holding threads of hope bright as the trilling of Dr. John’s piano.
By Ted Drozdowski.
**
Nominee – 51st GRAMMY® Awards
Best Contemporary Blues Album
(Vocal or Instrumental.)
City That Care Forgot
Dr. John And The Lower 911

from 429 Records: Dr. John’s Beloved New Orleans is the subject of this powerful new recording. The ravaged jewel of the American south receives a musical tribute from longtime resident Dr. J and a stellar cast of international guest artists including Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Ani Difranco and Terence Blanchard. Features the song “Time for a Change.”
**
Dr. John- Organ, Piano, Vocals, Horn Arrangements;
Herman V. Ernest III- Percussion, Drums, Background Vocals;
John Fohl- guitar, Background Vocals;
David Barard- Bass, Background Vocals;
Kenneth “Afro” Williams- Percussion;
Alonzo Bowens- Tenor Sax, Horn Arrangements;
Jason Mingledorff- Baritone Sax, Horn Arrangements;
Eric Clapton- Guitar (2, 8, 12);
Terence Blanchard- Trumpet (7, 11);
Ani DiFranco- Vocals (12);
Willie Nelson- Vocals (3);
Terrance Simien- Vocals (13);
James “12” Andrews- Trumpet (10);
James “Trombone Shorty” Andrews- Trombone (10);
Wardell Quezergue- Horn Arrangements, String Arrangements;
Tyrone Aiken- Background Vocals;
Shannon McNally- Background Vocals.
**
01. Keep On Goin’ (featuring Eric Clapton) 4:44
02. Time For A Change (featuring Willie Nelson) 2:53
03. Promises, Promises 3:42
04. You Might Be Surprised 3:58
05. Dream Warrior 4:57
06. Black Gold 3:12
07. We Gettin’ There (featuring Terence Blanchard) 5:12
08. Stripped Away (featuring Eric Clapton) 3:34
09. Say Whut? 4:34
10. My People Need A Second Line (featuring James Andrews & Trombone Shorty) 5:18
11. Land Grab (featuring Terence Blanchard) 3:56
12. City That Care Forgot (featuring Eric Clapton and Ani DiFranco) 5:34
13. Save Our Wetlands (featuring Terrance Simien) 4:06
**


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