When he died of a heart attack in 2019, New Orleans music legend Dr. John was in the midst of working on an album. Now three years after his passing, that LP has finally been given a title and posthumous release date: Things Happen That Way is due out on September 23rd via Rounder Records.
At 10 tracks long, Things Happen That Way is composed of some of the final tracks Dr. John — real name Mac Rebennack — ever wrote, as well as a slew of covers by some of his most admired forebears. Encapsulating his musical journey through New Orleans funk, boogie woogie, jazz, psychedelic, and pop standard, the record was co-produced by Dr. John and guitarist Shane Theriot, and cut in Dr. John’s native New Orleans throughout 2018. Dr. John’s daughter Karla R. Pratt also serves as executive producer.
Things Happen That Way will see Dr. John put his own spin on beloved classics like Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Ramblin’ Man,” Jack Clement’s “Guess Things Happen That Way” (made famous by Johnny Cash), and Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away.” Nelson himself also appears on the record, duetting with Dr. John on the Gospel classic “Gimme That Old Time Religion.”
“Years ago [Dr. John] talked about how hip Hank Williams was,” Pratt said in a statement. “He loved how simple yet emotionally complex Hank’s songs are, that they have a hook with a twist. For this album inspired by listening to the Louisiana Hayride [radio show] and icons of country and western, he was excited to do songs in a way that evokes emotion that sticks with you long after one of the songs — done his soulful way — is played.”
But there’s plenty of heartfelt original material on Things Happen That Way, too: “From a different vantage point and an older stage in his life, this album is truly his most intimate, with original songs as his ‘curve balls,'” Pratt adds.
Elsewhere in Dr. John news, his life story is set to be translated to the big screen in an upcoming biopic directed by his collaborator and Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach.