"My friend and brother, T Bone Burnett, produced Secret, Profane and Sugarcane. He and I also wrote two of the songs together.
"Sulphur To Sugarcane” takes its title from two Louisiana towns and is written in the voice of a charming but disreputable political campaigner. He is the kind of reprehensible fellow who glad-hands the women and gooses all the men.
While playing my solo spot on "The Bob Dylan Show” in November 2007, I started adding a couplet a night to the lyric, putting the name of each town visited into the narrative until I had a song that resembled, "I’ve Been Everywhere”.
It was startling to find how much applause one can receive for impugning the moral reputation of the ladies of Ypsilanti, even in Ypsilanti…
The other song written with T Bone is a complete contrast.
"The Crooked Line” is a song longing for constancy. It’s the only song I’ve ever written about fidelity that is without any irony.”
I’ve crossed the United States a number of times over the last thirty years. There are towns that I look forward to visiting again. I’m not going to say their names.
The third city that I played in America was New Orleans. I’d recorded in that city and in Nashville before I ever entered a recording studio in Hollywood or New York City.
So, it doesn’t seem at all strange that I’ve made all or part of five of my albums in the Southern States.
"Almost Blue”, came first in 1981. The Attractions and I cut thirty of my favourite country songs during nine days of sessions that alternated with sleepless, carousing nights.
Recording visits to New Orleans began in 1983 with my first collaboration with Allen Toussaint. T Bone Burnett and I returned in 1989, to have Allen to play grand piano on "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror” for the album, "Spike”.
My most recent recording session in New Orleans was for the completion, "The River In Reverse” in 2005.
That was an album combining classic Allen Toussaint songs and our recent co-compositions. The sessions took place three months after Hurricane Katrina, when the city was still under curfew.
"The Delivery Man” was recorded on location in Oxford and Clarksdale, Mississippi in 2004.
"The Delivery Man” started out as a story about the impact on three woman’s lives of a man with a hidden past. The story took the song "Hidden Shame” as its unsung prelude.
Parts of the narrative ended up being displaced from the final album by more urgent songs taken from the news headlines. One of the songs moved aside was to find an ideal home on "Secret, Profane & Sugarcane".
"I Dreamed Of My Old Lover” was to have been sung by the character, "Geraldine” but it is really a song for anyone waking from a disquieting night of sleep.
Mike Compton’s fleet mandolin lines are key to the opening this new rendition. He is joined, first by Dennis Crouch’s bass and then hands the leading line to Stuart Duncan’s fiddle.
Jeff Taylor’s accordion came in for Jerry Douglas’ dobro on the third day of recording and assumes a starring role on, "My All-Time Doll”, a song of lonely nights and desire.
Sometimes I think it actually steals a little from the listener to say exactly what a song contains.
There are undeniable threads and themes of rivers and oceans traveled, of bondage and guilt, of shame and retribution, of piety, profanity, lust and love, though only the last of these is absolute. There are always contradictions. The music offers the way out. It offers the way home.
So it was that the ideal song to close this album seemed to be, "Changing Partners”, a simple number that I learned from an old Bing Crosby recording. It is likely to be the last dance at all our upcoming appearances.