Dr. John was a raspy-voiced, early ‘60s, New Orleans born, rock ‘n’ roll and R&B guitarist and arranger, late-’60s night-tripping voodoo rock king, piano-playing ‘70s walking encyclopedia of Crescent City musical vibes, and then all around good guy for N’Awlins music until his death in 2019. Gumbo Blues grafts modern contributions by new and established artists sympathetic to the leader’s style onto the recordings that comprised Dr. John’s 1974 album, Anytime, Anywhere.
It’s a good choice, with numbers from New Orleans blues piano legend Professor Longhair, funky ‘70s items, ‘60s rock ‘n’ roll boogaloo blues, “She’s Just A Square”, even country, courtesy of “Just Like A Mirror”. Added, especially for this release, is the rare “Danger Zone”.
The guests prove the music’s wide appeal. Joe Louis Walker is one of the major protagonists of today’s blues; his musicianship on the opener, Longhair’s “In The Night”, does it full justice. Aforementioned closer “Danger Zone” has subtle playing by Finnish slide guitar maestro Erja Lyytinen. In between, you’ll hear former John Mayall guitarist Buddy Whittington (unexpectedly country), UK blues rock guitarists Chantel McGregor and Matt Schofield, Louisiana slide stalwart Sonny Landreth, veteran Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw, and the up-and-coming King Solomon Hicks, Eli Cook, Mike Dawes, and Argentinian blues guitarist Rafael Nasta.
All make worthwhile, if not always strictly necessary, contributions–these were good tracks already. They should attract a younger audience and the association with the Doctor’s music should help the guests themselves too–older hands will enjoy revisiting familiar material in a slightly different setting. There’s plenty to enjoy here.
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: DR. JOHN – GUMBO BLUES