Daily Discovery: Doctor Lo Discusses Being in The Big Easy During Lockdown on ‘Claiborne Avenue’

Former God Street Wine frontman Doctor Lo announced a third solo LP, Claiborne Avenue, due out June 18. He’s monikered as Doctor Lo in the music world, but his Ph.D. in American History made him Dr. Faber. The title track, a guiding force of the forthcoming project, is a historical timestamp of the quiet desolation of the typically bustling parade routes and tourist-packed streets of New Orleans—his home for over a decade.

Videos by American Songwriter

Clairborne Avenue, he says, was born from three, interconnected thoughts about the “lived experience” of the treasured city.

“First, I wanted to write something about the unique aspect and experience of the Covid lockdown in New Orleans in summer 2020, when this ordinarily gregarious, uproarious, tourist oriented city was so eerily quiet and empty,” he shares with American Songwriter.

The lyric video captures footage of the exhausted-looking storefronts, boarded up for an uncertain amount of time. Ain’t nothing doing on Magazine Street / Can’t get a beer, can’t get a bite to eat / No second line, no pocky way beat, he laments over the backdrop of “Closed” signs.

“Second,” he adds, “I wanted to intersect this story with my own study of the history of this region, a history that is filled with equal parts beauty and pain, as I traced in my 2013 book Building the Land of Dreams.

The chorus begins, Who knows what you could catch in the air / 300 years of history linger there. Lyrically, he points to the players that shaped the city of New Orleans into the cultural amalgamation that, in normal times, makes it a tourist destination. He sings There’s nothing doing in Louis Armstrong’s town / the Zulu king has got no Zulu crown.

“Lastly,” the artist concludes, “I wanted to portray both the lockdown and the broader history of which it is a part, as organic components of a tapestry of private human lives and stories.”

He credits his initial bluegrass and folk influence to the hippies who hung around his childhood home playing music. “The hippies who left instruments lying around where I could pick them up and try them, who left records on the turntable that I would discover, who surrounded me with music to the point that it just became the air that I feel comfortable breathing.”

His teenage years brought classic rock like The Rolling Stones and The Grateful Dead. “But really, the Beatles sealed the deal,” he adds. College led him into jazz—a top sonic layer displayed well in his new song.

“I have been trying to figure out, in a lot of different ways with different musicians, where I am in this mix of dialects and styles,” he explains. “Most recently I am getting back in touch with the acoustic music that influenced me earliest and has the deepest place in my heart. But really I am just on a quest to create something that doesn’t suck.”

Faber played most of the instruments himself for the initial recordings of Claiborne Avenue and afterward had some other musicians replace them. The album features a long list of standout players like Dave Eggar (The Who, Coldplay, Beyonce) on cello and string arrangements; Jason Crosby (Phil Lesh, Jackson Browne, Tedeschi & Trucks) on piano and fiddle; God Street Wine’s Jon Bevo and Aaron Lieberman on keys and lead guitar. New Orleans’ own DJ Marc Stone plays slide guitar and virtuoso Blake Collins takes the lead on mandolin. Ted Marotta and Tom Pirozzi—the rhythm section for Ominous Seapods in the ’90s—holding down the grooves on drums and bass.

Doctor Lo says “Claiborne Avenue” is not so much a “message-y” song, as it is an act of commemoration. “It’s a way of remembering the particular experience we all went through, in our individual ways, during the height of the pandemic and the insanity of mid-2020, then I’m OK with that.”

Listen to Doctor Lo’s new song, “Claiborne Avenue,” below.

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