By Ann Donahue
LOS ANGELES (Billboard)--Yusuf, formerly known as Cat Stevens, will follow up 2006's An Other Cup, his first secular album in 28 years, with a set that recalls his straightforward troubadour days.
The as-yet-untitled set is due in late spring from Universal.
"This one was really a result of me writing a lot of songs and being kind of inspired again," Yusuf--who adopted the Muslim name Yusuf Islam in 1978 and now prefers the shorter version--told Billboard. "After I recorded [Cup] people just wanted to hear me do a lot of simple stuff, just with the guitar."
The single "Boots & Sand" features Paul McCartney and Dolly Parton--with a video shot by Jesse Dylan, son of Bob--while Michelle Branch and Gunnar Nelson assist on the track "To Be What You Must."
"Boots" was written as a result of a 2004 incident in which Yusuf was denied entry into the US, apparently as a result of mistaken identity on the post-9/11 "no fly" terrorist watch list. "It's a slight oddity of a song," he said. "The image I had was kind of a cowboy B-movie made in Italy, but the story came from real events, real people."
The new album's stripped-down sound is in contrast to Cup, which featured tracks with prominent layers. "Perhaps I went to town a little bit with the production on the last album," Yusuf said. "I was just having fun with the new technologies--we have endless tracks on Pro Tools. You can just flow them out and add and add, and I did."
Yusuf came to Pro Tools digital audio software thanks to his son, who performs under the name Yoriyos and encouraged him to play with recordings and a computer in his home studio in London. "He's got such ears," Yusuf said. "I could understand what he wanted to create--that journey that the album can take you on."