secretprofanesugarcaneRecorded with T-Bone Burnett over a three day period in Nashville, Elvis Costello’s latest release, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, is probably the very definition of a mixed bag, but as such, it holds up pretty well just the same. This is Costello in country/Americana mode, and since it’s a collaboration with Burnett, it’s been compared to King Of America, though this album is not nearly so carefully crafted nor is it as serious minded as that 1986 release. What is it is very entertaining, and I expect that was the primary intention here. The album includes four songs written for an unfinished commission about Hans Christen Andersen, duets with Loretta Lynn and Emmylou Harris and a couple of songs written with Burnett. Burnett the producer has assembled a crack team of musicians to back Costello, so musically it’s always a pleasure to listen to. It’s not on the level of his finest records, but Secret, Profane & Sugarcane is still great fun in its best moments, and certainly recommended for Costello fans and fans of Americana and country music in general. Standout cuts: “My All Time Doll,” “Hidden Shame,” “I Dreamed Of My Old Lover” and “The Crooked Line.”


“People tell me I look like hell / Well, I am hell…”

T Bone Burnett’s new album, Tooth Of Crime, includes songs originally written in 1996 for the Sam Shepard play of the same name, here described by Burnett himself:

Tooth of Crime is a prophetic play that Sam first wrote in 1972, and it takes place in a time very much like now,” Burnett explains. “It’s a time when there are zones of fame that flare up and people can become incredibly famous in their own zones and nobody outside that zone can know anything about it. When the zone completely disappears, the famous person doesn’t realize it, the only way to even find the zone being to hook up a toaster to a television to a microwave to a piano, then possibly you can tune it in. That was the initial inspiration for the album.”

The central conflict between the play takes place between two musicians, each vying for dominion over the other.

After over a decade of working with the material, and adding some new material, Burnett has released Tooth Of Crime, a dark, foreboding, menacing but then also surprisingly beautiful album. You needn’t know the play to appreciate the album, either, as the songs work as stand alone pieces. Though Burnett is probably best known as a producer of albums like the recent Raising Sand collaboration between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, or the Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, he’s long been a musician in his own right, with solo albums dating back to the early 80’s. His own work is often highly experimental sounding, as it is on Tooth Of Crime, which mixes up the Americana and roots rock he’s known for as a producer, but also jazz, blues and whatever else strikes his fancy. A musical collaboration between Tom Waits and Angelo Badalamenti, the Twin Peaks soundtrack composer, might give first time Burnett listeners an idea of what to expect, but longtime listeners will hear the kind of musical alchemy that Burnett has worked with all his career. Standout cuts: “Anything I Say Can And Will Be Used,” “Dope Island” (features a guest vocal by Sam Phillips), “The Rat Age” and “Sweet Lullaby.”