They're best known for such '70s hits as "What a Fool Believes," "Takin' It to the Streets," "Minute by Minute" and "Listen to the Music," but the Doobie Brothers, playing Thursday at the Southwest Washington Fair, are no fossils.
The Doobies have a new album – the first in 10 years – coming out next month. The first single, a reworking of 1971’s “Nobody,” the first single the band ever released, will be digitally released Tuesday and can be heard right now at the band’s website (www.doobiebros.com).
The band has been adding some of its new music to this summer’s shows.
“Playing new songs for people is – I don’t want to use the words ‘crap shoot,’ ” said Tom Johnston, a singer, guitarist, songwriter and founding member of the band. “People usually come to hear what we normally give them, which is the chestnuts they always want to hear mixed with album tunes from throughout the years.”
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But Johnston, who wrote eight of the new album’s tunes, has been pleasantly surprised by listeners’ enthusiasm.
“I’ve been really happy,” he said. “I’ve been ecstatic.”
“The new stuff sounds a lot like some of the old material – a mix of horn-fed rock-blues and soul – so it got a better-than-normal response for a song no one had heard,” Timothy Finn wrote in a Kansas City Star review of a concert last month.
Even “Nobody,” despite a video filled with old footage of the Doobies, is pretty much a new song. “We took it apart and completely redid it,” said Johnston, who wrote the song four decades ago.
All of the remaining songs on the album, “World Gone Crazy,” are new, and they’re quite diverse.
“We have everything from rock to rhythm and blues to almost country, and there’s one song that almost gets into jazz,” he said. “‘A Brighter Day’ is a funky island thing.”
One song, “I Know We Won,” was a collaboration between Doobie Pat Simmons and Willie Nelson. Nelson not only co-wrote the track but sings on it as well. Another track, “Don’t Say Goodbye,” features vocals by longtime but former Doobie Michael McDonald.
The biggest job for producer Ted Templeman was to choose which songs would make it to the album, Johnston said. “To me, what this album is is what the Doobies have always been. The people who write the songs bring them in, and the producer chooses which tunes end up on the album.”
Johnston writes songs all the time, he said, not just when there’s an album due out.
“To me, the best songs always write themselves,” he said. “I don’t know where it’s coming from, and I don’t care. It comes to me.”
One such song? “Listen to the Music.”
And another? The new album’s title track – and one of the songs the band has already added to its shows.
“I started with it,” Johnston said, “and maybe two days later, it was finished.”
It’s about a man struggling to survive in New Orleans.
“That sounds glum,” he said, “but it’s an upbeat song. When they have funerals in New Orleans, they go in very slow and maudlin, and when they come back, everyone’s high-stepping.
“This is like when they are coming back.”