- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2002

Funk-jazz pianist Dr. John brings Mardi Gras to the Birchmere on Tuesday, which means authentic New Orleans music without authentic New Orleans bar lines.
After 35 years in the biz, the legendary Dr. (aka Mac Rebennack) has a new album, "Creole Moon," on the equally legendary Blue Note label, with four songs co-written by the late Doc Pomus ("Viva Las Vegas," "Save the Last Dance for Me.")
This is a solid return to his Nawlins roots, down to the voodoo album cover and a thumbnail sketch of the city's "musical gumbo." In the liner notes (which include a glossary of "Gumbo-izms"), he describes the opener, "You Swore," as "[T]he authentic inner city New Orleans sound."
With bucket-style drumming and snapping guitar, "Swore" comes off as a Stevie Wonder-ized version of the Police's "Roxanne." The Dr. has "Got the police on the beat/Tryin' to keep you off the street," but the female backup singers get the last word: "Be how I wanna be."
The profanely funny (and moralistic) "Monkey and Baboon" is a blues-rhythmed urban folktale starring the Signifying Monkey, the black American folk character. A cute touch: In the telling, Dr. John references almost every pop-culture animal character short of Crusader Rabbit.
The title track is a Cajun love song that runs over eight minutes and several musical styles. Tickled ivories and brush drums set the mood-music opening, then return after a jazz horn middle conjures sweaty images like "Livin' and lovin' on the bayou, child/Oh baby just fan my brow." The Dr. accurately calls it "atmospheric, trysting music," and it probably does sound better in your car's CD player than onstage.
"One 2 A.M. Too Many" is a poignant closer about a love-lost barfly whose "eyes can't fight the smoke the way they used to." Its best image: When the jukebox plays his song, "He lights up all over/Some of the years somehow die." A Pomus co-write, "the song makes me think of him," Dr. John says.
"In the Name of You," a tribute to drummer Art Blakey (complete with jazzy xylophone and sax), details a musician who's "tired of being loved … for what I'm supposed to be." But he's glad to be loved "in the name of you" that is, for each listener's personal reasons. OK, how about just because he's funky?

Fighting Gravity isn't exactly a Dave Matthews Band gone world beat, but when you're from Richmond and made your reputation on the East Coast college circuit, the comparison is almost inevitable.
Tomorrow FG returns to the always-friendly 9:30 Club after a monthlong Asia tour (and dinner in Singapore with the USO-touring Redskinettes). After 12 years of touring, the band has nearly perfected its organic sound.
FG's 2000 double-CD, "Hello Cleveland," (much of it recorded at the 9:30 Club) details the evolution from ska cover band to tight yet jazzy alterna-rockers that make full use of Schiavone McGee's throaty soulful yelps. Only once or twice does the bombast approach dangerous Styx levels.
"Breathing" typifies disc one's themes of alienation, quest and solitude as Mr. McGee is "Alone again with my philosophy … every reason I uncover leads to more I never see." "My World" is about taking "safety in what you believe" when "people give you an unkind eye."
The first disc's highlight, the defiant "Waterfall," draws strength from its power-grunge sound. When Mr. McGee asks the crowd, "Aren't you glad to be alive tonight, people?" he sounds even more pumped than they do.
The second CD is mostly ska and more easily enjoyed, though "Bouncing Off the Bottom" continues the alienation theme with lyrics such as "Solitude will bring insight of a new tomorrow."
"Walk With Me" has an exuberant reggae-style beat, uplifting lyrics such as, "I only wanna pick you up so we can walk away" and an amazing jazzbridge with keyboard solo.
Party-mood elevators include a cover of the nearly forgotten gem "Belly of the Whale," plus songs from Toots Hibbert, the Clash and Richmond's own the Good Guys. Best of all is the stomping ska classic "Sally Brown."

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