Dr. John, “Let ‘Em In” from The Art of McCartney (2014): One Track Mind

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There are, among an all-star cast featured on the forthcoming Art of McCartney tribute album, those who do the expected, even those who seem to have mailed it in. Packing so many figures into such a project almost guarantees that, occasionally, the song will be more than the guest can handle. Or the song, conversely, doesn’t live up to the star’s talents.

Then there’s Dr. John’s version of “Let ‘Em In,” a throwaway moment that became a big hit from the newly reissued Wings at the Speed of Sound. Here, we find someone elevating the source material — in essence, out-McCartneying McCartney.

It’s a wonder to behold, as the ageless Dr. John reenvisions “Let ‘Em In” as a laconic come on, an invitation to party or maybe something more, once a few more glasses have been raised. At the same time, he ends up lacing the song with darker feelings, as well.

Not that it seemed that way at first. See, Dr. John keeps the opening door bell, something that always felt too on-the-nose before, and then proceeds amongst the essential structure of its original groove. To this point, it might be tempting to skip ahead, but you simply mustn’t. Because what comes next is pure hoodoo, a song utterly reborn.

Dr. John purrs through the verse, giving it a Big Easy syncopation that wasn’t there before. Then, as “Let ‘Em In” takes on its familiar militaristic cadence, he makes McCartney’s once too-cute run down of various visiting relatives sound like a gospel revelation. By the time Dr. John plaintively asks to be let in too, in an exquisitely pained whine, “Let ‘Em In” has been given this unimagined depth of feeling.

One part revelry and one part reverie, it’s like a jazz funeral — something that packs a similar range of emotions — marched through one of McCartney’s slightest radio favorites.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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