On first glance, it might seem that New Orleans R&B icon Dr. John has hopped on the bandwagon of formerly big-name stars recording albums of tepidly reworked standards in an effort to milk the nostalgia-prone middle-aged demographic. Mercernary: The Songs Of Johnny Mercer, after all, finds Dr. John and his band, Lower 911, looking at the enormous catalogue of the legendary Johnny Mercer for material. Rather than taking the Rod Stewart approach, though, Dr. John actually reinterprets these songs, and the results are far more artistically sound than Cyndi Lauper’s At Last or any of Stewart’s Great American Songbook recordings. The soulful swamp-funk arrangements, by and large, work well with these songs; even something as tired as “Moon River” is given new energy, though Nelson Muntz and other Andy Williams purists might object. Dr. John is in fine, inimitable-as-ever voice throughout, and the instrumentals are, of course, flawless. The only real knock against the album, then, is that it’s all just a bit too effortless, though at this point in his career Dr. John has certainly earned the right to kick back a little.
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