Release Date: May 13, 2008
Record label: Nonesuch
Genre(s): Rock, Singer-Songwriter
While T Bone Burnett spent most of the '90s and the first years of the new millennium honing his craft as a producer, he cautiously re-emerged as a songwriter and recording artist with 2006's The True False Identity, which was his first new album in 14 years and prompted his first concert tour since 1986. A mere two years later, Burnett has returned with another new disc, Tooth of Crime, and while this project has long been in the works, it's still significant and welcome since it finally appeared at all. The ten songs on Tooth of Crime were originally created as accompaniment for a revised staging of Sam Shepard's play of the same name, which debuted in 1996 (one song, "Kill Zone," obviously dates back even farther, since the late Roy Orbison is credited as co-author), and while it's likely Burnett savored the opportunity to linger over this material before taking it into the studio, the performances here sound fresh and thoughtful -- like a good play -- while plenty of analysis and rehearsal went into refining Tooth of Crime's characters and narrative, there's still a vital humanity in the work that brings it all to life.
T Bone Burnett's name has become so synonymous with Oscar-winning films and big-name production credits that his own life now plays like a movie. In fact, the Fort Worth-raised singer-songwriter's latest solo outing is a soundtrack he wrote for the production of a Sam Shepard play of the same name in 1996. The topic of celebrity culture, accented by Burnett's nasal bleat, bleeds through the steel blues of Tooth as he eschews "traditional" songs for mood-setting acts.