Deep 'River'

Verve this week unveils the Elvis Costello/Allen Toussaint collaboration "The River in Reverse."

Verve this week unveils the Elvis Costello/Allen Toussaint collaboration "The River in Reverse." Recorded with producer Joe Henry over two weeks in Toussaint's native New Orleans and Hollywood, the set is split between new interpretations of classic Toussaint cuts and newly written songs.

Costello penned the title track Sept. 24, 2005, and performed it that night at the Hurricane Katrina relief concert Parting the Waters in New York. The song reaches out to Gulf Coast residents and demands answers for the U.S. government's mishandled response to the crisis: "How long does a promise last? / How long can a lie be told?" ... "I don't see how it can get much worse / What do we have to do to send the river in reverse?"

Five more songs -- "Ascension Day," "The Sharpest Thorn," "Broken Promise Land," "International Echo" and "Six-Fingered Man" -- were penned by Costello and Toussaint in New York last October. Costello selected the balance from Toussaint's catalog, cherry picking such gems as "Nearer To You," "Tears, Tears and More Tears" and "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?"

"Elvis, like a lot of people, re-committed himself to the importance of the legacy of [New Orleans] music," producer Joe Henry says. "I was talking to Allen about doing a solo record, and Elvis had appeared with Allen on stage at various benefits in New York, and the wheels were turning."