Downbeat Critics Poll Names Dr. John Blues Artist of the Year

17 07 2012

Dr. John performs at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Photo by Adam McCollough (courtesy of Downbeat).

When I started voting in Downbeat’s Annual Critics Poll back in 2005, I dutifully filled out the fields for artist of the year, hall of famer of the year, album of the year, etc., based on the jazz, blues and beyond — to borrow the magazine’s genre terminology — that I believed deserved credit. But I always expected to cringe when I opened the results issue: New Orleans musicians rarely got their due. To be fair, it’s not the magazine’s fault. Players based in the Crescent City often fail to tour as heavily as players from other places. Our artists can make a living playing here, where jazz and blues-based music is still pop music. And the city is so inwardly focused, that there’s more work for a local writer who sticks to local publications than for those of us pitching national ones. It’s still a bummer.

Today, however, the burden of that bummer has been substantially reduced. With increasingly more eyes and ears focused on the music coming out of this vibrant city, critics besides myself and David Kunian (Downbeat’s other New Orleans correspondent) are taking notice of our culture. Artists, too, are collaborating in great force with New Orleans musicians. Case in point: Dan Auerbach’s chart-topping collaboration with Dr. John (OK, so he’s technically a New Yorker these days, but he’s more New Orleanian than half of the city’s current population, myself included).

Thanks in large part to that project, “Locked Down,” Mac Rebbenack was named Downbeat’s Blues Artist of the Year in the 2012 Critics Poll. Last month, Mac and I talked about “Locked Down” and more for a feature pegged to his Critics Poll honor that appears in the August issue. You can check it out here.

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