Verve has settled on a June 6 release date for the Elvis Costello/Allen Toussaint collaboration “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?”
Backing the veteran artists is Costello’s band, the Imposters (Steve Nieve on Hammond B3, drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Davey Faragher) plus Toussaint’s horn section (Amadee Castenell, Joe Smith, Sam Williams and Brian Cayolle) and guitarist (Anthony Brown). Costello played guitar and Toussaint led the sessions on piano.
The artists are planning to launch “an extensive tour” in June, according to a statement. Beforehand, Costello and Nieve have symphony dates beginning Monday (March 27) in San Francisco and continuing into May. An April 30 appearance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is part of that run.