Colin Linden and Luther Dickinson‘s joint project Amour is comprised of other people’s songs about love. It’s fair to say that one of the tracks the pair loved recording most was 1961’s “Lover Please,” a top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit for Clyde McPhatter — premiering exclusively below — because it gave them a chance to work with the song’s writer, Billy Swan.
“It’s a song I’m pretty sure I’ve known my whole life,” Linden, who produced the album, tells Billboard.
He recalls seeing Swan, now 76, play in Kris Kristofferson’s band when Linden was young, and was familiar with Lover Please” even before Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge recorded it later on. “I met [Swan] when I came to Nashville,” Linden recalls. “He was extremely gracious. We had done some playing together and hanging out together, and he knew Luther as well from Memphis. I called [Swan] up out of the blue and he said he’d love to come in and do it with us, and we were beyond ourselves excited.”
For Dickinson, meanwhile, working with Swan “has been a dream of mine ever since my father, [record producer] Jim Dickinson, introduced us at Sun Studios one day when I was just a teenage guitar slinger hanging around studios in Memphis. They spoke in the hushed tones of shared experience. They spoke in a code of inside jokes and behind-the-scenes knowledge that only a handful of folk had actually lived, even though their culture had changed the world. … To have Billy give me the nod after the rundown and say that he liked the guitar lead-in was a genuine moment of rock ‘n’ roll dreams coming true.”
“Lover Please” is, of course, just one of many highlights for Linden (Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, TV’s “Nashville”) and Dickinson (North Mississippi All-Stars, Black Crowes, The Word) on Amour, a rootsy Americana set that comes out Feb. 8 on Stony Plain Records. The two have known each other for years — since Dickinson visited the Nashville set, where Linden was musical director — and have what Linden calls “a great simpatico together … like we finish each other’s sentences in words that surprise each other.” Linden told Dickinson for an idea about an album “of essential love songs that come from different places but the melodies all have this sort of longing to them. I began to mention some ideas of songs I had for it, and Luther said, ‘Hey, when you get around to making that record, maybe let’s make it together. It’ll be fun.'” A year later, the two came together, and Linden reports that “the chemistry was just wonderful between us and the singers. Everything just fell into place perfectly.”
Besides Swan, Amour features guest vocals from Nashville castmembers Sam Palladio and Jonathan Jackson, as well as Rachael Davis and Rudy Amanfu. Among the other selections are “Crazy Arms,” “Honest I Do” and “Careless Love.” “A lot of these are songs that have haunted me my whole life,” nine-time Juno Award winner Linden notes, “songs I remember hearing before I had conscious memory.”
And there may be more where these came from: Linden says there are enough other songs on his list to make a second volume of Amour “definitely possible.” Meanwhile, he and Dickinson have also done some recording for another project, working with Levon Helm’s daughter Amy.
“We recorded a bunch of tunes that are tied together thematically as well,” say Linden, who’s currently producing a new album for Keb’ Mo’. “It’s more about relationships rather than just love songs. Each of us is singing different songs. It’s interesting, so we’ll see. That’s something to come down the pike, I think.”