Monday, June 04, 2007

Why I Love Dr. John

Had a great day at Crawfish Fest yesterday – we go to see terrific performances by Papa Mali, John Cleary and the incredibly energetic Cowboy Mouth (I might post on them separately), among others. Ate some boiled crawfish and bread pudding and alligator sausage, too. And some very nice chicken and sausage jambalaya, come to think of it. Good stuff, all around.

The day was capped off by a performance by Dr. John. He played one of my favorites from his repertoire: “I Walk On Gilded Splinters,” a creepy voodoo shuffle that has a one-line chorus that may be the most chilling question in music ever: “Did I murder?” The way he cries that, it’s like he has no idea what happened the night before, only that he’s woken up with blood on his clothes and strange half-memories in his head.

(I should note that no lyrics site lists this line as the actual lyrics of the song, but that’s what they mean to me. Many sites say the line is “Till I burn up,” although one says “Till I murder” and another, inexplicably, says “Ti Alberta,” whatever that means. And apparently both Cher and Widespread Panic has covered the song – as did Papa Mali, who played a haunting version at yesterday’s show. Regardless, I like the lyrics I hear better than any I’ve read.)

Here’s a verse, just to give you a sample of the fever-dream lyrics:

I roll out my coffin
Drink poison in my chalice
Pride begins to fade
And you all feel my malice
Put gris-gris on your doorstep
And soon you be in the gutter
Melt your heart like butter,
An-an-and I can make you stutter

(I should also probably note that the line, “Put gris-gris on your doorstep” was one I heard for a while as “Put gravy on your doorstep,” so take whatever I say with a grain of salt… although doorstep gravy could be slippery and dangerous.)

We were about 50 yards back from the stage, so I watched a bit with our binoculars, and noticed that there was a skull on Dr. John’s piano. Also, there was something that looked like a big crab claw. Okaaaaay…

So imagine my surprise when he stands up and puts the crab claw on like a mitten, and starts playing it by scraping a stick against it. Meanwhile, in the same hand as the stick, he’s shaking a rattle that looks to me like it’s a bunch of mussel shells attached on a loop. The man puts seafood in his music, for cryin’ out loud. It’s weird as hell, but tell me that’s not cool.


(One more thing: It was starting to rain before his encore, but he came out and played anyway, saying, "You ain't gonna get more wet than what you already got," and then, reacting to the applause, "God bless every one'a you crazy muthafuckas." He knows how to make a fan feel appreciated.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work.