Short Takes: Dr. John, Chelle Rose, The Replacements and More

Written by March 27th, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Waco Brothers & Paul Burch
Great Chicago Fire
(Bloodshot)
Rating: ★★★½☆

The Waco Brothers are a bunch of scraggly Brits — frontman Jon Langford also leads the on again/off again Mekons—who have synthesized a particular brand of boozy/sleazy country through their UK sensibilities since 1995. Here they join with Nashville’s Burch, coming off a successful Buddy Holly covers disc, for a meeting of the minds that tempers the Waco’s aggressive style with the singer/songwriter’s more restrained, melodic approach. It’s just as insurgent as Bloodshot typically promises but Burch brings a less boozy vibe to the sessions that nonetheless remain loose, vibrant and crackling. Country rock done right, ie: without anyone taking themselves too seriously.

Dr. John
Locked Down
(Nonesuch)
Rating: ★★★★☆

Now well into his 70s and a professional musician for over 50 years, Mac Rebennack aka Dr. John the Night Tripper, is still the coolest dude on the block. The Bonnaroo festival’s name is even taken from one of his album titles. Now he’s joined with Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach to show the kids how to lay down a serious hoodoo/voodoo groove. John has always had that deep gruff rasp, but backed by raw swamp boogie with lots of baritone sax, creepy female backing vocals and treated keyboards, he’s sounding as dangerous and spooky as when laying down the gris-gris on “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” back in 1968. He even closes with a spiritual, perhaps to make right with the man upstairs who might be frightened off by the ominous, almost demonic vibe of the rest of this devilishly intense album.

Chelle Rose
Ghost of Browder Holler
(Lil’ Damsel)
Rating: ★★★½☆

“I need something like morphine, only better,” growls Chelle Rose on her sophomore release. That something is you which indicates how badass country swamp rocker Chelle Rose is. Run Lucinda Williams’ backwoods drawl through Miranda Lambert’s my fist-your face attitude and you’ve got the no-nonsense Rose. It helps having rebel southern country legend Ray Wylie Hubbard as producer, especially when he brings a great band that includes the Faces’ Ian McLagan and drummer Rick Richards. But it’s Rose and her sassy stance that makes the Dixie Chicks sound like Taylor Swift and pushes this into the red where it stays for 40 swaggering, brash minutes.

Dayna Kurtz
American Standard Rating: ★★★½☆
Secret Canon Vol. 1 Rating: ★★★½☆
(Kismet)

The impossible to pigeonhole chanteuse uses her potent dark chocolate voice to power two new albums, released simultaneously. On Secret Canon she dusts off nine obscurities from jazz/blues artists predominantly circa late 50s-early 60s, records them live to tape with a sympathetic jazz trio backing and the result is perfect for rainy days, Mondays and the brokenhearted. As its title implies, American Standard transverses a variety of Americana styles from Appalachian folk to rockabilly, swamp rock, 60s slow dance pop and an emotionally wrenching version of the Replacements’ “Here Comes a Regular.” Terrific originals find Kurtz generally taking the first person narrative and with her meaty vocals bulldozing through, these songs are personal and riveting.

Color Me Obsessed — A Film About The Replacements
(What We Are Thinking Films)
Rating: ★★★★☆

How do you describe the indescribably iconic American rock and roll band without hearing a note of its music? That was director Gorman Bechard’s challenge and he meets it superbly in this two hour documentary on the legendary Minneapolis band. Comprised entirely of articulate, personal interviews with famous and obscure rock critics, musicians, friends, record company executives, producers, family, and anyone else vaguely touched by this self-destructive quartet, the talking head format exposes more intimate information about the group and what it meant to its hard core fans, than any traditional performance filled doc could. By the end, you’ll be convinced the “’Mats” were the best and most underappreciated band most people never heard, which makes this heartfelt homage a success on every level.

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