Elvis Costello is slated to head into the studio the week of Thanksgiving to begin a collaboration with songwriter/arranger/pianist Allen Toussaint. Joe Henry will produce the album for Verve Records.
Henry likens the project to Costello’s 1998 pairing with Burt Bacharach, “Painted from Memory” (Mercury/Universal). “That project was a very legitimate collaboration between the two artists, and this will feature Elvis as a singer doing both classic songs that Allen has written as well as new material [the two are writing],” Henry tells Billboard.com.
New Orleans veteran Toussaint recently performed with Costello at a number of New York benefits for the victims of hurricane Katrina. Toussaint, who has written such songs as Dr. John’s “Right Place, Wrong Time” and Lee Dorsey’s “Workin’ in a Coal Mine,” appeared as a pianist on some of Costello’s early 1980s albums.
“Elvis, like a lot of people, re-committed himself to the importance of the legacy of [New Orleans] music,” 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.”
Henry, who has toured with Costello in support of his own solo releases, recently produced Bettye LaVette’s “I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise” for Epitaph’s Anti- imprint, as well as the multi-artist “I Believe to My Soul” for his newly formed Work Song label. The latter was released via a partnership with Rhino Records and Starbucks’ Hear Music, and features Toussaint, Billy Preston, Mavis Staples, Ann Peebles and Irma Thomas.
Henry says he and Costello have discussed working together for a few years now, and Henry had been prodding Toussaint to record a solo effort for Work Song. “Elvis and I talked off and on about working together,” Henry says. “He’s been a big booster of ‘I Believe to My Soul’ and he’s a big a Bettye LaVette fan. After the hurricane, it brought home to him how significant that relationship with Allen was.”