Something Borrowed, Something New:
A Tribute To John Anderson

Dan Auerbach can’t remember the first time he heard a John Anderson song. “It's just like they’ve always been around,” he says of the music of the revered country singer-songwriter. “John is like Tom Petty, songs like ‘Seminole Wind’ and ‘Swingin’’ are just songs you know. They're part of the fabric of America.”

That tapestry is about to get several threads richer with the release of the stunning new all-star homage Something Borrowed, Something New: A Tribute To John Anderson. The renowned producer (Dr. John, Yola) and one half of the Black Keys recorded the 13-track collection piecemeal over the course of 2020 and 2021, in partnership with friend and co-conspirator David “Fergie” Ferguson (John Prine, Sturgill Simpson). The musicians showed up and showed out for Anderson with contributions from a wide range of stylists including Eric Church, Luke Combs, Ashley McBryde, Brothers Osborne, John Prine, and Nathaniel Rateliff among others.

A palpable sense of dedication to the songs, and the reverence for one of the best to ever do it in country music, vaults Something Borrowed to cut-above status befitting Anderson’s epic career, which stretches over 45 years and 40 charting singles. The results are a gorgeous coalescence of the many facets of Anderson’s sound and his ability to both write and choose timeless songs to be handled by his kissed-by-a-spirit vocal styling.

“When you're sitting behind the console and you hear that voice come out of the speakers in real time, it's spine tingling,” says Auerbach of Anderson’s unmistakable croon that deftly balances vulnerability and power, humor, and heart.

“We weren't trying to piddle around and make the normal tribute record,” says Auerbach, who became close with Anderson while producing the Florida native’s vibrant 2020 album Years in his Easy Eye Sound studio in Nashville. “It had to be the best singers with the best songs and the best arrangements, and they all had to come into the studio. This wasn't like, ‘Mail me the song, and we'll put it together.’ Everybody had to come here and do their thing. I think it makes this record unique. I don't think most tribute records are done like this. I think that's why it sounds like a cohesive album. It feels like an amazing mix tape.”

While being respectful of the originals, the artists did not shy away from making the songs their own. From the wistful opener —the late John Prine’s note perfect “1959”— to Combs’ spirited tear through the seminal anthem “Seminole Wind” to Church’s amped up shot at “Mississippi Moon,” many of the tracks could easily be hits again today. Brothers Osborne hit the tonal bullseye with their heated version of Anderson’s playful swing at the Bo Diddley classic “You Can’t Judge A Book (By The Cover)” and Ashely McBryde gets to the bottom of “Straight Tequila Night.” Artists as diverse as Sierra Ferrell, Tyler Childers, Brent Cobb, and Nathaniel Rateliff take Anderson’s songs through the trad country spectrum from earthy mountain highs to the slinky, swampy lows of the back country to the hardscrabble honky-tonk dance floor.

“The hardest thing in the world is to be unique and on top of it to be successful,” marvels Auerbach. “It's like winning the lottery twice.”

Anderson’s third grand prize is this album, for which the 67-year-old musician could not be more grateful. Following a serious health setback in 2019, his amazing rebound with Years, and his ability to ride out the pandemic with his family at his beloved homestead in Smithville, TN, Anderson feels truly touched by a higher power and moved by this outpouring. “The good Lord healed me,” he says, “and this tribute humbled me.”

We spoke to Auerbach about crafting this tribute and to Anderson about how it feels to have his hits in such good hands.


Did working on John’s 2020 album Years serve as the catalyst for Something Borrowed?

Yes, pre-Covid John had a medical emergency and almost died and then he lost his hearing for a while. Miraculously, he regained it right before Fergie and I reached out to him. I don't know why Fergie and I got to talking about John Anderson, but out of the blue we said, "I wonder what John Anderson's doing? Should we call him?” We really became very close friends, during the making of that record, hanging out, going fishing. And his hearing continued to improve. The timing of that record happened at the beginning of the pandemic, and we were bummed out that it didn’t get its due and we wanted to make sure people heard it. I think this tribute record is one way of doing that.

Given the depth of John’s catalog, you could have easily done 25 songs. It feels like a big task to have whittled it down. And then pairing the artists and the songs seems like another challenge. How did you choose?

It really, really was. Some of these people we were just friends with and casually asked them. For some we had to have our manager reach out, but ultimately it was just like the first people we asked. Everybody said yes. Everybody did it because they absolutely loved John, every single one of them. I remember I had Sierra Ferrell in the studio, and we were just hanging out playing music, and she just started singing “Years.” This was before we were doing the tribute. We'd never spoken about John Anderson, and she never mentioned anything about him or the record or anything, and then she just started singing that song, and I was like, "What?"

The line-up is stellar. Let’s start with album opener John Prine and “1959.” Was that one of the last things he recorded?

I believe so. He immediately said yes when we asked, and we set it up for the next week. He loved John Anderson. It just felt like an amazing way to open the record because it's so plaintive at the very beginning. The whole idea of a tribute is about looking back and appreciating. And to hear John Prine sing, “Baby I'm yours/I'll love you always/I'm gonna stand by you until the end of time” felt like a really nice way of saying goodbye to our buddy.

Who picked “Mississippi Moon” for Eric Church?<br />
Fergie picked that, it’s the perfect song for him. He also said yes right away.

He showed up at 10 o'clock in the morning. I think he had a little whiskey in his coffee too. I think that might have contributed to how loose we all got on that one. [Laughs]

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings lend their signature earthiness to “I Just Came Home to Count the Memories.” How much did you talk about arrangements in general with them and the other artists?

I just shut the fuck up and let them do their thing.

Luke Combs’s rendition of “Seminole Wind” is clearly homage, but he put some of his own fire on it as well. What was it like working with him?

Luke came in and just absolutely destroyed it, man. He was all, "Yes sir. No sir." Just the sweetest guy that can be. You could tell he just loved the song and knew every twist and turn by heart.

Brothers Osborne doing “You Can’t Judge a Book (By Looking at the Cover)” is another inspired pairing.

They wanted to do that one. They were adamant. We were like, "All right, come on!" John is such a player. He's my favorite B-bender player in town. And he always kills it. They were both awesome

Who chose “Straight Tequila Night” for Ashley?

That was her pick. She really wanted to do that song. And that's another instance where it's clear, yeah, this person has sung this song many a night.

What do you hope people take away from the album?

I want people to first love it for what it is: a great record. Then I want them to go investigate John and listen to his records. And, honestly, I want to see John in the Country Music Hall of Fame, too. That would be good for country music.


What was your initial reaction to the idea of a tribute album?

At first, I didn't think much about it. We were writing the songs for my last album, Years, when it came up. What does a guy say about his own tribute? On the other hand, Dan and Dave Ferguson were the guys involved, and they are great music men — and now, they're friends of mine so I trusted them. I would hear them say, “We’ve got so and so recording.” I remember when they mentioned John Prine, I said, "I need to come by there and get a picture of me and John." We go back a long way and I've always loved him, and I don't think I have a picture. I made a special trip to town that day. I didn't want to bug him at the session, so before the music all started, I was gone, but I did get my picture, and I had a wonderful visit with John. I was blown away by his version of “1959.” That was the last time I saw him. A great artist and a great spirit, John Prine.

When you listened to the album and heard people do their own takes on your songs, were you excited to hear the differences?

Oh, yes. I love all kinds of music, anything from symphony to gospel and bluegrass, rock and roll, country, and soul music, all of it. Listening to everybody do their own takes on the songs shows how the songs really come through. And I thought to myself, “You might have been young and foolish back then, but you sure did pick some good songs.” It's very gratifying to know that some things really do not change, and a great country song remains a great country song. Any one person on the record would be a real tribute, but all of them together? It's a pretty big deal for me personally.

When you began your career over 45 years ago, you couldn’t possibly have known that you’d still be making vital records like Years and that several generations of musicians would revere your voice and work. What were your expectations back then?

For me it was the music. I didn't expect anything, especially out of the business. And I really don't these days. However, the music is the Lord's gift that just keeps on giving for me. Knowing so many younger musicians appreciate my work is very gratifying and a bit humbling. I have to just stop and take it in a little at a time, as far as the tribute. I only hope that maybe I'll get to sing on some of their records later.

The album cover has a picture that Johnny Cash took of you, is that right?

Yes. When Dan and Fergie said that this was going to be a tribute album, I said, “Well, one of the greatest tributes I ever had was Johnny Cash taking this picture of me and having it fixed for me and giving it to me for free.”

What do you remember about that day?

Oh, that was my first private jet ride. He and I had been on a hunting trip in south Texas and he asked me, would I like to ride home with them instead of driving back with the other guys? And I said, “Oh no, sir, I wouldn’t want to impose.” He said, “It’s no imposition or I wouldn’t ask you.” And I said, “Well, I’ve never ridden on a private jet before.” And he said, “Well, now’s your chance.” So I’ll never forget. And he took that picture right before he walked up on the plane. It was John Carter and June, and Big John and myself, and there were two wild Russian pigs in a box on that jet with us.

Wait, what was the deal with the wild Russian pigs? Was that what you hunted?

Well, we had friends in low places. And Johnny Cash wanted a Russian pig, so he got one. [Laughs]

A few words from some of the contributors to Something Borrowed, Something New:

“John Anderson isn’t just a brilliant songwriter, he’s also such an iconic singer that it makes it hard to imagine singing his songs! That’s why I’m so glad Dan Auerbach made this record, and that he asked me to sing this song, because I wouldn’t have had the guts to otherwise.”—Gillian Welch

“‘Seminole Wind’ is one of my favorite country songs of all time, and I was honored to put my take on it. I hope it does justice in paying tribute to John Anderson and the incredible artist he is.”—Luke Combs

“I grew up listening to John Anderson on country music radio, so I was honored… almost like a pinch yourself moment, when I was asked to contribute to this album. ‘Years’ is such a great song, and it spoke to me from the first time I heard it. The lyrics and John’s unmistakably haunting voice immediately flooded my brain with that universal truth… that life is so precious and so brief. I felt called to that song, and I’ve always thought that if you feel a song in your bones, you can bring it to life. From that point, everything becomes almost effortless.”Sierra Ferrell

“Wild and Blue” has always been one of my favorite John Anderson songs, written by John Scott Sherrill one of my favorite writers. It helped comfort me when I lived in L.A. A bunch of John Anderson’s albums did. They all feel like home.”—Brent Cobb

For more information, please contact Asha Goodman, Catherine Snead 615.320.7753 or Carla Sacks 212.741.1000 at Sacks & Co.