Release Date: Jun 2, 2009
Record label: Hear
Back in Nashville with producer T-Bone Burnett, it's Elvis (or Mr Diana Krall as he's also known) in fine, lovelorn country form. With added banjo..
Costello releases his 29th studio album and first for Starbucks’ Hear Music, assembling one Tasmanian devil of a Nashville bluegrass record in the process album recorded in Nashville in a mere three days, Elvis Costello’s latest—Secret, Profane and Sugarcane -will inevitably draw comparisons to his last transmission from the Music City, 1981’s affectionate if perhaps overly fussed-over country covers essay Almost Blue. But that sort of snap assessment would be a mistake—the record this one most directly resembles is 1986’s folk-tinged King of America, which also happened to be the first time Costello collaborated with T-Bone Burnett in the producer’s chair, a duty Burnett fills once again here. Career comparisons aside, more than anything, Costello’s latest (amazingly, his 29th studio effort since My Aim is Trueoriginally written for Loretta Lynn), written with other purposes in mind (“How Deep is the Red,” “She Was No Good,” “She Handed Me a Mirror” and “Red Cotton,” all songs Costello wrote for his, as yet, unfinished Hans Christian Andersen opera), written with others at his side (the absolutely terrific Gram Parsons-like tearjerker, “I Felt the Chill Before the Winter Came,” co-written with Ms.
Costello sounds downright frisky at times on this acoustic set, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, which musically calls to mind 1986’s sublime, countryish King of America. (The two albums share ?producer T Bone Burnett.) ”Sulphur ? to Sugarcane” in particular is a lusty delight, pinpointing the notable (alleged) qualities of ladies from different locales (”The women in Poughkeepsie/Take their clothes off when they’re tipsy…”). Though Costello does indulge his Debbie Downer-like inclinations on ”My All Time Doll” and the beautiful, Loretta Lynn co-penned ”I Felt the Chill.” B+ Download This: Listen to the song Sulphur to Sugarcane at last.fm .
Elvis Costello has long displayed a fascination with Americana. He’s even married to a Yankee girl – jazz singer Diana Krall, a transplant from Vancouver, B.C. – and the two are currently shacked up in NYC. They wed in 2003, so it’s no surprise that Costello has spent the bulk of his studio time since then mining the sounds of his adopted land.
Somebody keep Elvis out of Nashville, please. I mean, really, can someone at the northern border keep on the lookout for a 50-something Liverpudlian toting around a blond jazz singer and a couple of kids, asking for directions to the studio where Charlie Rich recorded? Here’s part of the problem – I love Elvis Costello. I love his eclecticism, his wit, his flights of fancy and his restlessness.
Most of Elvis Costello's records for the past 15 years have been side projects of one kind or another-- attempts to show how very broad his range is that mostly demonstrate the opposite. He's released jazz records, classical records, a soundtrack or two, collaborations with New Orleans R&B overlord Allen Toussaint and mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter. And every few years, at least when he's not threatening to quit recording, he gets together with his actual rock band-- the Attractions or their current iteration, the Imposters-- and does what he's genuinely brilliant at.
Now that T Bone Burnett's spun platinum out of Raising Sand, classic rock has reverted back to its roots. Elvis Costello's country oeuvre, 1981's Almost Blue and 1986's King of America, gains an in-law in his bluegrass album, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, more spontaneous creation from another standard-bearer (Bob Dylan, Neil Young) whose advancing years erode the incubation process. Self-assurance draws out opening salivation "Down Among the Wine and Spirits" seemingly longer than its three minutes, and "Complicated Shadows" follows suit, but anything longer – and almost everything is – stagnates, beginning with Loretta Lynn co-write "I Felt the Chill," which begs for the obvious duet.