Things Happen That Way, the final studio album from New Orleans music legend Malcolm “Mac” Rebennack, Jr, a.k.a. Dr. John, was released by the late musician’s estate via Rounder Records on Friday. Featuring collaborations with Willie Nelson, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, and Aaron Neville, the album pays homage to the country and western musicians and songwriters “whose songs had a profound and enduring effect on him, and deeply influenced much of the remarkable body of work he produced during his six-decade-long career in music,” per a press release.
Making a country-inspired album like Things Happen That Way was a long-term goal of Dr. John’s. He was in the process of realizing the project when his life was unexpectedly cut short by a fatal heart attack in 2019. His eldest daughter and executrix of his estate Karla Pratt was charged with ensuring that the album came to fruition.
“Though it’s very sad that my father isn’t here to see this project that meant so much to him finally be out in the world, I take great comfort in knowing that we fulfilled his long-held wishes. During his lifetime he frequently stated his desire to record this album with his dear, lifelong friend Willie Nelson and Willie’s son Lukas Nelson as treasured guest artists – he felt having two generations would be very special, spanning past and future. Though he didn’t get to work with Lukas during his lifetime, I’m very happy to know we were able to make that happen. Another lifelong friend, Aaron Neville, lends the instantly recognizable, beautiful voice he always admired. We’re so grateful to the many musicians who contributed to this album, and I’m confident that Dad would be very proud of the final result.”
Things Happen That Way includes classic country and gospel tunes reinterpreted through the lens of Dr. John’s distinctive, slinky New Orleans feel. A cover of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away” opens the album, followed by Hank Williams‘s “Rambling Man” and a rendition of the gospel standard “Gimme That Old Time Religion” featuring Willie Nelson. Williams’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” also appears on the tracklist alongside Johnny Cash‘s “Guess Things Happen That Way”, the Dr. John classic “I Walk On Guilded Splinters”, and three new original songs, “Holy Water”, “Give Myself a Good Talking To”, and “Sleeping Dogs Best Left Alone”.
Acclaimed New Orleans-based pianist Jon Cleary plays piano and organ on some the record, having recorded in the studio with Dr. John as his health was in decline.
Things Happen That Way is now available on all streaming platforms and CD. Stream the album via Spotify in the player below. The record will be released as a vinyl LP on October 14th.
Dr. John – Things Happen That Way