N'Awlinz: Dis Dat or D'Udda


Dr. John's latest is a cultural history of his native "N'awlinz," a sweeping 360-degree vision of 150 years of music, myth, storytelling and tradition. Stops include spirituals, voodoo, jazz funerals, Mardi Gras, folk tales and funk. Anything but a solo project, the album brings in orchestrations for a spookily devout, Mavis Staples-enhanced reading of "When the Saints Go Marching In." Dr. John keeps the blues blue with B.B. King on "Hen Layin' Rooster," while Cyril Neville sprinkles the gris-gris on "Marie Laveau." Intermittently, there's more mumbo jumbo than gumbo, but the album is at its best when local legend Eddie Bo appears on two essential tracks: the seminal African-American folk tale "The Monkey" and a rendition of "St. James Infirmary." The latter is a kind of living will, a reminder that Dr. John's own funeral might be the biggest bash the world's greatest party town will ever see.—WR