Those who can´t do, teach. Figure, then, that musicians who don´t create, cover. Which is not to suggest that Dr. John, legendary boogie pianist and former Popeye´s Chicken and Biscuits jingle-smith, has lost it; it´s just the tendency of our more senior musical icons to forgo creating new music in favor of reinterpreting the old. The doctor´s latest, Mercenary, is a recast collection of dusty pop standards, a curious homage to Johnny Mercer, the former Capitol Records boss and prolific Benny Goodman-era songwriter. And although it´s not as if ¨Moon River¨ wasn´t due for an injection of soul, listening to the good doctor and his band, the Lower 911, imbue Mercer´s more recognizable works with their ¨hoodoo¨ aesthetic would be much more satisfying if he made clear his reasons for the choice of subject matter. Then again, why begrudge the good doctor a fit of hero worship, letting him drag ¨You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby¨ and the like through the murk until they emerge, grittier, sassier, and sounding more lascivious than Mercer himself would have ever condoned?
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