This time, Dr. John finds inspiration for his blend of jazz, folk, boogie woogie, and dirty street funk in the music of fellow southerner Johnny Mercer, who has writing credits on 10 of the 13 tunes. Dr. John and his Lower 911 sound at home with such Mercer classics as "Blues in the Night," "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby," "That Old Black Magic," and "Come Rain or Come Shine."
It’s not enough for Dr. John to just sing these well-known songs. Instead, he makes them his own with his funky piano work and down-home vocals. His slow-and-easy style milks every syllable out of lines like "look at that knocked-out moon, been blowing his top in the blue."
The band reinvents "I’m an Old Cow Hand" as a sassy instrumental with more swagger in it than anyone would have imagined. "Moon River" is also drastically remade. It could now be as much about the Mississippi as the Hudson. The tune has a new attitude, but it remains as pretty as ever.
That's what is so impressive about Mercenary. Dr. John freely interprets them to fit his unique style, but they still sounds like classics.
Dr. John brings his own song to the mix. It’s called "I Ain’t No Johnny Mercer." He may not be, but he sure can sing the man’s songs.