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Dr. John: All by Hisself: Live at the Lonestar

Fans of the indefatigable Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John), once and future high priest of funkified N’awlins voodoo, owe a big debt of thanks to Hyena founder Joel Dorn for underwriting a magical mystery tour through the musical witchdoctor’s vividly plumaged past. Proposing a professional partnership with the man he considers America’s “most complete musician” to create Skinji Brim, an imprint devoted to preserving and protecting Dr. John’s rich archive of live recordings, Dorn was provided the rare privilege of immersing himself in Rebennack’s private tape stash. Emerging with some 120 hours worth of buried treasure, Dorn unspooled the first reel, a two-night performance at New York City’s Lonestar from December 1986, and knew he needed to make it the cornerstone of Skinji Brim’s ambitious Rebennack Chronicles series of audio-video releases (with each CD accompanied by a DVD of rare interview or performance footage). Focusing on what Dorn aptly calls “the Zen of what Mac does, just him singin’ and playin’,” Live at the Lonestar showcases Rebennack at his vocal best-that inimitable blend of Billy Eckstine inkiness and Fred Sanford grit. Like most Dr. John dates, it’s a rollicking history lesson brimming over with soul-stirring nods to the likes of Doc Pomus, Huey “Piano” Smith, Chris Kenner and Allen Toussaint. All the gutbucket, gris-gris staples-“Such a Night,” “Stagger Lee,” “Iko, Iko,” “Right Place, Wrong Time,” “Rockin’ Pneumonia”-are here, along with the boogie-woogiest “Swanee River” you’re ever likely to hear. The companion DVD is a comparatively sedate affair, with Rebennack calmly, quietly demonstrating to an unidentified interviewer why he remains unchallenged as the Crescent City’s foremost musical curator.

Originally Published