The River In Reverse, Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint's new album — seven songs from Toussaint's catalog; five newly written by the two; and one new song, the title track, written by Costello — will be released June 6 by Verve Forecast.
Sessions for the album took place over a whirlwind two weeks late last year in Hollywood, California and at Piety Street Studios in Toussaint's hometown of New Orleans.
Produced by Joe Henry, the album combines Costello's band The Imposters with Toussaint's horn section (Amadee Castenell, Joe Smith, Sam Williams and Brian Cayolle) and guitarist (Anthony Brown).
Toussaint led the ensemble from the piano, with Imposters keyboard player Steve Nieve switching to Hammond B3. The majority of the tracks were cut with the entire group in the room and Costello singing live, occasionally adding his guitar to the mix. Costello selected songs from deep within the Toussaint catalogue such as "Nearer To You," "Freedom For The Stallion" and "Tears, Tears and More Tears." Toussaint kicks off the lead vocal on his composition, "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?" and trades vocal lines with Costello and bassist Davey Faragher on several other tracks.
All of the horn arrangements are marked with Toussaint's style and, commented Costello, "add a second voice" to the title track, the one song that Costello wrote alone. Just before the recording began, the duo holed up in New York to write together throughout October, a quick-moving process that resulted in four songs on the album of various combinations of words and music.
The songwriting collaboration began with Costello writing lyrics for Toussaint's beautiful minor key variation of Professor Longhair's "Tipitina." The resulting piece is now entitled "Ascension Day." Other new titles include "The Sharpest Thorn," "Broken Promise Land" and "International Echo."
Toussaint previously produced a 1983 Costello cover of Yoko Ono's "Walking on Thin Ice" with the Attractions and The T.K.O. Horns, and also contributed piano to the New Orleans-recorded "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror" from Costello's 1989 album Spike.
Immediately following Hurricane Katrina, Toussaint relocated to New York City where the two renewed their musical friendship at several benefit concerts and club gigs during the a seven day period from Sept. 17, 2005, leading to discussions of this new album. "The River in Reverse" was written by Costello on Sept. 24, 2005, and performed by him for the first time at that night's "Parting the Waters" benefit event organized by the The New Yorker magazine.
Costello and Toussaint will begin an extensive tour this June.