Dr. John (and the Night Trippers) released Ske-Dat-De-Dat The Spirit of Satch in August 2014, paying homage to Louis Armstrong in a wonderful way. Produced and arranged with his trombonist Sarah Morrow, Dr. John has laid down a collection of 13 tracks just brimming with cream-of-the-crop guest stars. Below is PPcorn’s track-by-track review of Dr. John’s latest album.
“What a Wonderful World” features The Blind Boys of Alabama taking on this classic in a funky soul style with Dr. John taking the lead vocal. This is no soft lullaby ballad – this has you wiggling back ‘n forth, snapping your fingers. “Mack the Knife” opens with a huge and catchy syncopated funky jazz vamp. Mike Ladd and Terence Blanchard star on this track. The rap vocals are surrounded by space, and seem oddly disjointed from the lead trumpet and Dr. John’s vocals.
“Tight Like This” sees even less of Dr. John on it than the previous track, but his style is present in the slow Afro-Cuban vibe complete with steel drum. Telmary and Arturo Sandoval are featured here, with sultry Spanish and English vocals that draw you into the sensual groove, making you want to twist those hips. “I’ve Got the World on a String” moves away from the funky backbeats, heading more towards a swing feel coupled with Pancho Sanchez’s conga. Bonnie Raitt and Dr. John deliver a playfully sweet blues duet.
“Gut Bucket Blues” puts the funk back in the blues. This tune struts and packs a punch with searing hot horn courtesy of Nicholas Payton. “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” highlights Anthony Hamilton’s silky vocals, floating over a soul-filled jazz progression full of fat, smooth horns and Rhodes keyboard.
“That’s My Home” shows off Dr. John’s ability to channel Louis Armstrong, via his vocal phrasings – the ghost is present. Backup vocals by the McCrary Sisters and the very necessary flugelhorn by Wendell Brunious saunter along easily in this R&B track. “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” has a gorgeous piano and organ intro, bringing on the sounds of churchy gospel featuring Ledisi singing a heartfelt duet with Dr. John. Grab a tissue as your eyes mist with empathy for her.
“Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” brings The Blind Boys of Alabama and Terence Blanchard back around to stroll through another gospel number complete with swooshy Hammond organ. “Dippermouth Blues” pulls the album back up to an irresistible uptempo funky NOLA groove. Trumpet by James “12” Andrews and piano solos lead into Dr. John’s title-worthy scats.
“Sweet Hunk O’Trash” has Shemekia Copeland and Dr. John singing a duet reminiscent of Armstrong and Billie Holiday doing this one together, but with a tad more attitude (albeit playfully teasing), aided by the gritty distorted RMI keyboard solo. Just wow. The contrast between the Hammond organ and the synthesizer drops your jaw. “Memories of You” opens with an ominous buildup of horns and keys, before sliding into the tranquil groove of this R&B track. Dr. John’s vocals are at the forefront here, with Arturo Sandoval’s horn filling in the gaps between lyrics.
“When You Smile (The Whole World Smiles With You)” fills in the full fat horn sound with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. It almost has a laid-back salsa groove to it. Dr. John’s vocals charm the inevitable bashful smile to your face.