Out There in the Distance Somewhere... Maybe.
03.19.2009 - Here are a few projects that John's working on. But the way things work in the real world of the music business-or any business, really--they may or may not come to pass as conceived-if at all. So you didn't read it here first!
1) The "A Ride Back Home" video: Actually, this one's almost a certainty. The clip for "A Ride Back Home" has been shot with guest vocalist Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town, and will likely be viewable shortly online and hopefully at CMT and VH1. It was lensed by the same team that did the "Rain on the Scarecrow" video-including director Jamie Andrews-and has the same style and feel.
2) Summer Tour: A special tour is in the works, slated to start in early July and run through the end of August. It will play at minor league baseball fields, with John sharing top billing with two other major artists.
3) New Album: During the tour, John hopes to cut a new album, "as American folk as I've ever been," he says. To be produced again by T-Bone Burnett, the album will be recorded at old buildings such as the one at 508 Park Avenue in Downtown Dallas, where legendary bluesman Robert Johnson recorded 13 blues songs during the summer of 1937 including "Hellhound on My Trail," "Love in Vain" and "Traveling Riverside Blues." Artists including the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton would later cover these classics, with Clapton going so far as to film a sequence for his 2004 "Sessions for Robert J." DVD there.
The building has long since fallen into a sad state of disrepair-indeed, it has been cited as one of the 11 most endangered historic places in the country. John hopes to refocus attention on it and other such buildings within quick travel distance during his summer tour (another is the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, where Johnson recorded "Sweet Home Chicago" and "Crossroad Blues"), bringing along 1950s recording equipment to get a vintage sound to go with the setting. Additionally, the sessions will be filmed by acclaimed photographer Kurt Marcus; background footage of the surrounding areas will also be shot and mixed in with material about the music and the summer tour itself. If things go according to plan, a Sundance-quality documentary will result.
4) Box-set Retrospective: They've been talking about this one for years, but real work is now being done on what looks to be a 4-CD set. In fact, music business A & R and Producer veteran Steve Berkowitz, who among many other things did the a&r work for the ongoing series of Bob Dylan and Miles Davis boxes has been brought on as consultant.
According to Berkowitz, then, the box will not so much focus on the obvious hits as present a full picture of a "life-long, hall-of-fame, great artist" and his songs.
"John's music screams for an overview," he says. "He has so many great songs besides the hits--and there's a lot of those!"
The layout of the set at this time involves one disc of early demos; two discs of various versions of well-known songs (these may be alternate takes and mixes, early versions, acoustic versions, etc.), as well as previously unreleased songs; and a fourth disc, which Berkowitz is currently referring to as "Let Us Reconsider," to also include different versions of other material. He estimates that 65-75% of the material will be "previously unreleased" recordings. "John has an incredible collection of material going all the way back to the 1970s--just vocal and guitar, with dogs barking and babies gurgling and him singing. Many of these recordings capture the first glimpse of songs and anthems destined to be classics--and these tapes capture the birth of these gems. We're just now editing a version of 'Pink Houses' from three early demos! It gives a peek behind the curtain to see how John created it--and a glimpse of what was to come."
5) "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County" CD/Book Package: This will involve a recording of the songs and the dialog of John's musical collaboration with Stephen King, with T-Bone Burnett producing and acting as musical director. It won't be a "cast album," but will contain performances by major artists. The book will include the text of the musical-also called the "book" in theater lingo.
If things go as planned, the set will be available prior to the "Ghost Brothers" opening next April at Atlanta's Alliance Theater. In the works for 10 years, the production remains a priority for both John and King, who have become close friends during the intense collaboration.
Remember: None of this is written in stone! Everything is subject to change!