As New Orleans and the world continue to grieve the monumental loss of Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, who died of a heart attack earlier this month, there may be something to look forward to: a final album, including new material.
Rolling Stone reported on Dr. John’s final album, which the outlet says includes “new originals, country-tinged covers and reworked classics.” Willie Nelson, Aaron Neville and Rickie Lee Jones are some of the featured guests on the forthcoming album, which was recorded in part at Esplanade Studios in Dr. John’s hometown of New Orleans. The late pianist, songwriter and singer enlisted some of the city’s most decorated session musicians for the task of his farewell LP, including David Torkanowsky.
“Mac understood that this was his last record,” Torkanowsky told Rolling Stone. “It was emotional in the studio just to hear him. It had a certain weight to it that only something that’s the last time you do it can have.”
Guitarist Shane Theriot produced the as-yet untitled album. He says Dr. John was determined to get the record done before the impending death he knew was coming. “It would break my heart because he would come to my house, and I knew he wasn’t feeling great, and Mac’s work ethic, he was old school; he grew up doing five sets a night,” said Theriot. “And so he told me on several occasions, he would say, ‘Whatever we gotta do, we gotta do it. We gotta get it done…Whatever we gotta do to finish this motherfucker, we gotta finish it.’”
Finish it they did, and the final product includes “country classics like ‘Old Time Religion’ (a duet with Willie Nelson), Johnny Cash’s ‘Guess Things Happen That Way,’ and ‘Funny How Time Slips Away,’ as well as several Williams covers like ‘Ramblin’ Man.'”
Theriot says there’s also “a version of [Hank Williams’ 1949 song] ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ that’ll make you cry when you hear Mac sing it.”
Elsewhere on the album, Dr. John revisits his own material. New arrangements of “Such a Night” and “I Walk On Guilded Splinters,” the latter featuring his longtime friend and collaborator, Jones.
The final album from Dr. John has not yet been assigned a release date.