City That Care Forgot
By James Calemine
Dr. John’s latest disc, City That Care Forgot, proves an essential volume in his prestigious discography. These songs contain more of a cultural-political undercurrent lyrically while employing old musical elements of jazz, R & B and New Orleans-influenced sonic qualities.
“Keep On Goin’” finds Dr. John seeking out new territories to explore…a fresh perspective. This song resembles a Little Feat-Meters groove. Eric Clapton makes an appearance on “Time For A Change”, which reveals why Clapton always worked best as a lead guitarist. Dr. John uses his band, The Lower 911, on these tracks.
Willie Nelson accompanies Dr. John on “Promises Promises”, illustrating they both feel at home with this gumbo-funk number. On “You Might Be Surprised” Dr. John utilizes a slow, jazzy, Ray Charles-ish vibe. “Dream Warrior” evokes a laid back gris-gris mojo with flashes of colorful brass.
“Black Gold” begins with “If you really wanna know what this war is all about…”, which stands as one of Dr. John’s most political songs. These compositions contain a social commentary which resonates in a post-Katrina New Orleans. Clapton performs on “Stripped Away” that counts as another funk-driven ditty that hovers around Hurricane Katrina perspectives.
“Say What” sounds like Stevie Wonder meets Sly Stone that blends into the next track—“My People Need A Second Line”—which lays an indictment on the steps of City Hall. Another social song, “Land Grab”, serves as verification these songs derive most inspiration from New Orleans’ jazz heritage. Ani DiFranco and Eric Clapton contribute to the Mardi Gras street party atmosphere on the title track.
Another cultural composition, “Save Our Wetlands”, travels into old Neville Brothers territory where alligators linger on the lip of these shifting lands. A bonus track, “Mother Earth” generates a rock and roll atmosphere Leon Russell once commanded--combined with punctuating horns that accentuate the mercurial guitar riffs. City That Care Forgot provides a close-to-the-bone narrative glimpse into the modern artistic landscape of New Orleans that Dr. John knows well as anyone…