Dr. John – Things Happen That Way – Rounder Records

by | Nov 5, 2022 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

The good doctor’s final house call…

Dr. John (Malcolm John Rebennack, Jr.) – Things Happen That Way – Rounder Records #1166101698 – 39:05 – ****1/2

(Musicians include: Dr. John – vocal, piano; Shane Theriot – guitars; Will Lee, Tony Hall – bass; Carlo Nuccio, Herlin Riley – drums; Jon Cleary – B3 organ; David Torkanowsky- Wurlitzer piano; Katie Pruitt, Willie Nelson, Aaron Neville, Lukas Nelson – vocals)

Recorded in the months prior to his death, the iconic New Orleans raconteur, and pianist, Dr. John, goes out in style on his final album, Things Happen That Way. Though his raspy, yet ever so beyond cool voice, is occasionally weak, the Good Doctor, is backed by friends and colleagues, honored to spend some final time with their friend, an individual beyond unique. The ten songs on this bittersweet and tender album are a mix of his favorites, with a strong country influence, balancing his blues roots.

 Born in 1941, Mac recorded over six decades, and played and produced albums for many of the New Orleans legends. His drawl was immediately recognizable, and his piano prowess, combining blues, soul, jazz and New Orleans “gumbo” inspired a wide audience, eager to hear his patois. His freewheeling sardonic lyrics were never mean, and just as often self deprecating. He came up also playing guitar, but after a shooting accident in 1960 injured his playing hand, Mac concentrated on piano. Rebennack played with a wide range of artists, ranging from Sonny and Cher, to Aretha Franklin, even making an appearance with Frank Zappa. He eventually took on the moniker, Dr. John, the Night Tripper. Dr. John’s appearance with The Band on The Last Waltz, performing “Such a Night,” was a highlight of the Martin Scorsese documentary. Later he made stops along the way with the Ringo Starr All-Star Band, B.B King, and The Red Hot Chili Pepper. If an artist wanted NOLA street cred, then the Good Doctor had the prescription.

On his final album, Mac seems to reminisce over a lifetime of memories. Whether its with fellow legend, Willie Nelson, on “Gimme That Old Time Religion,” or seeing the “end” with Aaron Neville on “End of the Line” Rebennack takes us for a final good-bye spin. His version of  “I Walk With Guilded Splinters” with Willie’s son Lukas, is a bit spooky. “Holy Water” revisits a dark period in his life. Listening to the opener, “Funny How Time Slips Away” immediately sets the tone for what is to come.

There will never be another Mac Rebennack. Just enjoy his sentimental coda as a testament to both his greatness and unique persona. The Doctor has left us with an RX to make us feel a bit better, but may also bring on a few tears.

Funny How Time Slips Away
Ramblin’ Man
Gimme That Old Time Religion
I Walk on Guilded Splinters
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
End of the Line
Holy Water
Sleeping Dogs Best Left Alone
Give Myself a Good Talkin’ To
Guess Things Happen That Way

—Jeff Krow

More information at Rounder Records:

Album Cover for Dr John Things Happen That Way


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