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A long time coming

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It seems their story began in Tennessee: Dr. John and Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach ripped through a Superjam set at Bonnaroo 2011, the festival that owes its namesake to Dr. John's 1974 album Desitively Bonnaroo.  But it was actually a long time coming, as Dan Auerbach has always been a fan of and influenced by Dr. John. Coming off of the success of Brothers, the construction of his very own Easy Eye studio in Nashville, and the pending success of the Black Keys' follow-up El Camino, the time was perfect for collaboration. In an April interview with NPR's David Greene, he sounds almost giddy, "I'm such a huge fan. I think he is sort of underappreciated. I knew the timeless quality of what he did. I just felt like, if I went down and met him and his head was anywhere near where it used to be, it just might be fruitful."

Dr. John is a living New Orleans legend. With over 30 released albums attached to his name, he is the winner of five Grammy awards and a recent inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Locked Down sure sounds like a Dr. John album, New Orleans to the bone and creepy in all the right ways; but, he's distinctly refreshed. It's not that Dr. John is new to changing his sound, he's been steadily releasing albums since the 70's, all variations on his voodoo-blues signature growl.  But this time around he gets a serious boost from a career just hitting its creative stride in Auerbach. Locked Down ranges from classic New Orleans blues, to afro-beat, with reggae flourishes, and some dirty, dirty rock aided by Auerbach's play throughout.  You'll hear the Dr.'s electric piano on just about every track, some thick horn lines (see "Revolution"), and painfully soulful backing vocals from The McCrary Sisters and Auerbach to boot.

Part of negotiating Dr. John to make the record was for him to actually stop being Dr. John. Auerbach explains in his NPR interview, "I…wanted him to talk from the Mac Rebennack [Dr. John's real name] perspective - lyrically. I didn't want him to talk from the Dr. John perspective."  He obliged, and as a result, the album is arguably the most personal offering from the artist since his 1995 autobiography Under a Hoodoo Moon: The Life of the Night Tripper.

The album is a critical and commercial success, going to number one on the Billboard blues charts.  And with the Auerbach bump, the album and the Dr. are getting some well-deserved exposure from some younger crowds.  At 71, he is certainly in his element crafting some dark grooves impossible to ignore.

Dr. John is on tour now, coming to New York at Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Greenvale on November 17.