Review Summary: A trip to Bourbon Street and a dazzling collection of New Orleans blues staples covered successfully by Dr. John.
I’ve never been to New Orleans and I probably never will. Not that I don’t want to but travelling is simply not my thing. Nevertheless, there is something about The Big Easy that always appealed to me. A sense of mysticism combined with great food, bourbon, nice people and voodoo! Not many cities around the world can beat that package, at least in my eyes.
Dr. John is probably the most well known blues artist hailing from New Orleans and for a good reason. His brand of blues combined with pop and jazz elements is very distinctive and to those who want to get into the blues of New Orleans, Dr. John’s Gumbo
is an ideal starting point. The main reason is that it consists solely of classic NOLA tunes played by Dr. John and a large variety of musicians. Most of you will probably have listened at least one track from this album at some point of your lives such as “Mess Around” (Planes, Trains and Automobiles, anybody?).
Those of you who are familiar with Dr. John’s music or the New Orleans scene, already know that this type of blues is quite different than the Chicago (BB King), Delta (Robert Johnson) or Texas (Stevie Ray Vaughan) blues. The music of this album is dominated by Dr. John’s playful piano, his characteristic raspy voice, numerous brass instruments (saxophone, trumpet, trombone, etc.) and a strong Caribbean flavor. The music here is mostly up tempo and funky while the quality of the original compositions is unquestioned as they have lasted the test of time. Songs like “Iko Iko”, “Mess Around”, “Let the Good Times Roll”, "Stack-A-Lee" or “Those Lonely Nights” are New Orleans blues staples and are included in various compilations. Therefore, the real question here is how well they are performed by Dr. John and his band. Well, let’s say that if you didn’t know that the album consisted of classic material beforehand you would think that the music was composed by Dr. John himself.
To sum up, if you are not a fan of New Orleans blues you probably won’t like this album much. However, if you’re a fan of the blues in general and wish to know how this sub-genre sounds, there are few albums out there more appropriate than this one. In a nutshell, Dr. John’s Gumbo
is an impressive collection of New Orleans blues staples covered brilliantly by an excellent musician and his band.