It's easy to forget under all the grigri that Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) is first and foremost a piano player, solidly in the line of great Crescent City piano players, and it isn't too hard to draw a direct line from Professor Longhair to Rebennack's Dr. John persona. In 1981 Rebennack stepped out from behind all the smoke and mirrors and released an album of solo New Orleans piano called Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack, which was a revelation only to those who never bothered to look too deeply past the Night Tripper image. A second album of solo piano pieces called The Brightest Smile in Town followed in 1983, and it is that album, retitled Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack: The Legendary Sessions, Vol. 2, that is presented here, with six additional tracks added. These were relaxed, intimate sessions, and Mac's piano sounds wonderfully clear and full. The vocals are somewhat muted (most of the tracks are instrumentals), perhaps because they're being picked up through the piano mic, but that only adds to the intimacy here. Highlights include the opener, "Saddled the Cow," a hushed take on Jimmie Rodgers' "Waiting for a Train," an impressive version of "Average Kind of Guy," a song Rebennack wrote with Doc Pomus, a stately instrumental rendition of the traditional "Key to the Highway," and a striking -- maybe even definitive -- "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Blues." The obvious thing now is for Clean Cuts to package the two volumes of solo piano into one set.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett