NEW ORLEANS — Dr. John's been gone more than three years, but now his fans are being treated to his latest new album.
The album's called "Things Happen That Way" and people who worked on the project said fans will hear a whole different side of the musician.
Those who worked on this album said it took a little longer to come out, because after Dr. John's death in June 2019, the work went to his estate, which then had editorial control.
Unlike previous albums, this album is more emotional.
Fans waited five years for Dr. John's swan song album, but especially those at his side as he laid that one-of-a-kind voice to track.
“It’s very raw, and it's an emotional track, and it's, 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry' by Hank Williams, again, and Mac loved this song. It's beautiful. I'm mean, you'll hear Mac's emotion. He really put everything he had in finishing this,” guitarist and the album’s co-producer and Shane Theriot said.
Of course, locals know Dr. John as Mac, full name, Mac Rebennack. Theriot said they wrote a few new, original songs, and covered country classics. He told the WWOZ radio listeners Friday that Mac always wanted to make a country-western record.
“You know, Mac's persona. His whole personality was larger than life. So, he could take on any song and make it his own,” Theriot said.
“When the original tracks were done, he really he told Shane, ‘That's the record I've always wanted to make,’” composer and musician, David Torkanowsky said.
Mac wanted musicians, who were friends, recording in the studio with him. David Torkanowsky was one of them.
“(He) played great. Still had that Mac beautiful, like I say, humid flourishes, and he's still soulful. It was great,” Torkanowsky said.
In fall 2017, the group recorded in Esplanade Studios in New Orleans. Mac's famous sound was on the grand piano in that studio.
“It's just so much tone, and character in his performance, and his sound. So, I'm sure his fans will have a couple of tears listening to the record,” the owner and chief engineer of Esplanade Studios, Misha Kachkachishvili said.
But for the second session, spring of 2018, his health was failing. So, they finished recording in his Northshore home, working around barking dogs, lawn mowers, and pressure washers.
“I hope he's happy with it. Even though some of the songs were altered after he died, and it wasn't quite his vision, it's still a beautiful record,” Theriot said.
“Mac didn't have any concept that this was his last record. To him, it was his next record. The great quote in the “Rolling Stone” article, ‘You know I have no plans to die within my lifetime,’” remembers Torkanowsky.
And through his music, his voice lives on.
Torkanowsky remembers one day Mac was late to a recording session. So, he got the session going by playing Mac's piano part, with the intention of Mac replacing it when he got there.
But Mac walked in on them and jokingly said "Man if that's supposed to be me, that's terrible. Get up ."