Dr. John: Chicken Gumbo For The Soul

Thursday's Pick

  • Song: "You Might Be Surprised"
  • Artist: Dr. John
  • CD: The City That Care Forgot
  • Genre: Soul
Dr. John 300

In "You Might Be Surprised," Dr. John addresses the devastating state of his beloved New Orleans. courtesy of Dr. John hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of Dr. John

"Life is a near-death experience," Dr. John sings in "You Might Be Surprised," and he's clearly addressing Hurricane Katrina's devastating effect on his beloved New Orleans. As if to clarify the inspiration, he adds, "Hell is right here on this great big earth."

Faced with disaster, damnation, and even his own mortality, the 67-year-old Dr. John (a.k.a. Mac Rebennack) makes no secret of his bitterness at the way his hometown was treated by the U.S. government; that righteous indignation sets the tone for his new CD, The City That Care Forgot. But in "You Might Be Surprised," he sets aside his anger and preaches a simple sermon, ambling along at an easy pace.

Supported by richly harmonic horns, a sweep of sentimental strings, and his own bluesy piano, Dr. John delivers his lines in a drawl that makes them hard to decipher at times. But his message is easily boiled down: "If we don't believe in ourself, nobody gonna do it / If we don't push ourself, we never make it through." When Dr. John applies his grizzled, gumbo-soaked voice to such hard-bitten homilies, the result sounds an awful lot like the truth.

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