Record Review: Dr John - 'Mercernary' - Songs of Johnny Mercer
EMI 0946 3 55567 2 8 DRJOHN 06
I was not hitherto aware that Johnny Mercer was responsible for quite so many well known enduring songs - standards if you will - as are represented here, let alone a myriad more that are not, no doubt. Blues in the Night, I'm an Old Cowhand, That Old Black Magic, Moon River, Lazy Bones, Come Rain or Come Shine, You Must have been a Beautiful Baby are among 13 numbers getting that unmistakeable funky Mack Rebennack treatment we are so familiar with. It's been almost 40 years since we first stumbled across the Gris-Gris Man Walking on Gilded Splinters and pointing us in the direction of Professor Longhair and other musical gumbo from down old New Orleans way. There have been ups and downs and other nefarious changes of direction but in general, the maestro has remained true to his roots , while updating his skills all the time and simultaneously paying tribute to great innovators of the past - previously Duke Ellington and now, Johnny Mercer. Dr John is quite a rarity - a sixties survivor still worth paying close attention to. This self-produced album is well up to par and provides us with a variety of moods, mainly suitable for late night chillin' and creating an intimate atmosphere. The piano playing is as honky as ever and the familiar creaky old voicebox sexily snakes itself around Mercer's lyrics with consummate ease, with the exception of I'm an Old Cowhand which sadly is presented here as an instrumental - odd I should find myself writing this but I feel it would have sounded ten times better sung. That small criticism aside, I am really surprised I find this CD just quite as enjoyably groovy as I do, when it might have been far more middle-of-the-road. Laid back for sure, but lazy? - No Way!