Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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***1/2

DR. JOHN AND THE LOWER 911
City That Care Forgot
429

Conspiracy theories from the good-time voodoo pianist whoes 1974 album first popularized the word Bonnaroo

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, superdelectable New Orleans piano master Dr. John got something bigger than religion. He got sincerity, which sure beats the gentility he got in the '80s. Granted, it leaves him mouthing slogans like "Save our planet" while trying to convince the world what only an ignoramus would deny is possible: that the levees were blown up on purpose by malign forces. Yet miraculously, the old reprobate almost brings off his protest album. Clarifying his notoriously incomprehensible drawl, he adduces environmental depredations, insurance scams, contracting woes, refugees, suicides, flood-shocked minds and bodies in the ruined streets over darker and slower variations on the fonk he's had under his thumb since he billed himself the Night Tripper 40 years ago. "If ya wonder how we doin'," he sings, "short version is, we gettin' mad." It suits him.

Blender, Aug. 2008