Album Review

Dr. John and the Lower 911, 'Tribal'

August 2, 2010

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Like so many of his New Orleans brothers and sisters, Dr. John got fired up personally and creatively after Hurricane Katrina upended his hometown in 2005. Three years later, he made “City That Care Forgot,’’ a rallying cry and assertion that Nola would rise again. That potent sense of purpose is largely missing on Dr. John’s latest album, “Tribal,’’ which too often plays it safe with its good-time gumbo of funk, blues, jazz, and swamp rock. Courtesy of his band, the Lower 911, the musicianship is superb, but the songs aren’t especially memorable, serving up political commentary in fortune-cookie philosophy. “There’s a mighty big gap between the rich and the poor/ If the rich wasn’t rich, would the poor have more?,’’ Dr. John sings on “Big Gap.’’ He cuts deeper on “Manoovas,’’ the lean and mean rocker powered by Derek Trucks on lead guitar. Hoping to summon the voodoo spirit of “Gris-Gris,’’ Dr. John’s acclaimed 1968 debut, the title track ends up as funky as a soundtrack to a jungle-themed ride at an amusement park. (Out tomorrow) JAMES REED

ESSENTIAL “Manoovas’’

Dr. John plays the Cape Cod Melody Tent Aug. 28, and the South Shore Music Circus Aug. 29.