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Creole Moon (2001)

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David Newman

Between his various standards albums of the '90s and the heavily collaborational Anutha Zone from 1998, by the end of the millennium it'd been nearly a decade since Dr. John's last record of straight-ahead New Orleans R&B. Creole Moon rectifies that situation nicely -- it's "a personal interpretation of New Orleans" (as he says in the liner notes), and these 14 vignettes of New Orleans life are soaked in Crescent City soul. Creole Moon is also a return to the sound of his classic mid-'70s records (Dr. John's Gumbo, In the Right Place), right from the spidery electric piano and testifying back-up vocals on the opener "You Swore." Most of his band, the Lower 9-11 Musician Vocaleers, have been playing with him for close to 20 years, and provide solid accompaniment. Dr. John also invites some friends along, including David "Fathead" Newman, slide guitarist Sonny Landreth, fiddler Michael Doucet, and a tight horn section led by Fred Wesley. And there's few better than Wesley to knock out a tough James Brown groove, as he and the band do on "Food for Thot" while Dr. John vamps over the top. Most of the other songs are little more than those loose grooves, and the booklet's constant references to African-derived rhythms (or an included Creole dictionary, aka "Gumbo-izms") may be too much for most listeners, but Creole Moon shows Dr. John doing what he's done best for nearly 30 years. ~ John Bush