Like old black water that keeps on rolling, details have been leaking about Southbound, an upcoming album that pairs the Doobie Brothers with some of country music’s biggest acts. We now finally know what songs Sara Evans, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Zac Brown Band and the other country collaborators will be performing, as Rolling Stone Country has the exclusive reveal of the album’s track list, along with its album art. (See below.)
Due November 4th, Southbound mixes the reverence of a tribute album with the back-and-forth collaboration of a duets record, as the Doobies share vocals and trade instrumental duties on 12 new recordings of their own hits. Along with the cover art — a portrait of an empty bar illuminated by a jukebox, presumably stocked with Doobie Brothers hits — the album’s premise is straightforward. Each country artist takes the reins for one song, sharing vocal leads with either Tom Johnston, Michael McDonald or Patrick Simmons — the Doobie Brothers’ three frontmen, performing on the same album for the first time since 1976’s Takin’ It to the Streets — while an all-star session band kicks up plenty of twang, dust and old-school guitar riffage in the background. Joining that backup band are Vince Gill and Hunter Hayes, who perform one song apiece as guitar slingers rather than vocalists.
“Country has changed since the days of Hank Williams,” Johnston tells Rolling Stone Country. “It’s taken on a rock tinge. Truthfully, the traditional style of rock & roll has kind of gone away. No one is representing it the way it used to be represented. Country music has sort of picked up the slack. That’s why those artists are huge right now.”
For decades, the Doobie Brothers’ hits have been go-to cover songs for bands on both sides of the country/rock divide. Luke Bryan performed “Long Train Running” — with help from the Doobies themselves — during the pair’s 2011 taping of CMT’s Crossroads. Dolly Parton sang “China Grove” on her Dolly! variety show in 1976. Lady Antebellum tackled “Black Water” multiple times during the group’s Own the Night Tour, often with help from their opening bands. Before he joined the Doobie Brothers in April 1975, Michael McDonald even covered his future band’s material during bar shows.
“The first gig I ever played with these guys,” McDonald says, “I realized, ‘I just played this song two days ago at the Brass Rail in Pasadena!'”
Southbound isn’t the only upcoming album that bridges the distance between veteran rockers and modern-day country stars. Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Motley Crüe hits stores in early August, with artists like the Cadillac Three, the Mavericks and Justin Moore putting their stamp on the hard-rockers’ catalog.
The Doobie Brothers, Southbound Track List:
“Black Water” with Zac Brown Band
“China Grove” with Chris Young
“Jesus Is Just Alright” with Casey James
“Listen to the Music” with Blake Shelton and Hunter Hayes on guitar
“Long Train Runnin'” with Toby Keith
“Nobody” with Charlie Worsham
“Rockin’ Down the Highway” with Brad Paisley
“South City Midnight Lady” with Jerrod Niemann
“Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)” with Tyler Farr
“Takin’ It to the Streets” with Love and Theft
“What a Fool Believes” with Sara Evans
“You Belong to Me” with Amanda Sudano Ramirez of Johnnyswim, and Vince Gill on guitar
Southbound is now available for pre-order here.