Performed at Cary’s Booth Ambitheater on June 14th, 2009
Elvis Costello’s CD, Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane, has been widely promoted as his “country” CD. But as with all things Elvis Costello, the truth is somewhat more compliacted. When you look at the instrumentation, including accordion, upright base, fiddle, dobro, etc. It’s easy to think country music, or perhaps more accurately, roots music. But it often sounds more like bluegrass than anything. But for most people, the distinction isn’t very iportant. It sounds twangy. Several of the songs are previous works done on commission for an opera about Hans Christian Anderson. That’s not as out in laft field as it might first sound. because the story line is about how Anderson was obsessed with an opera singer who toured the United States during the Civil War. So the songs are rooted in the era and rooted in the music style of the era. The rest of the songs, including one written with Loretta Lynn, sound a little more like roots music. But Elvis Costello never turns loose and writes a simple honky tonk ballad. He still has to write his incredibly complicated lyrics and herky-jerky usical lines. So in the end, the songs sound more like Elvis Costello rock songs adapted for a old-time string band. But ya know what? That’s not a bad thing. Notable tracks include:
Down Among the Wines and Spirits / Secret, Profane and Sugarcane / Elvis Costello / 3:12
Complicated Shadows / Secret, Profane and Sugarcane / Elvis Costello / 2:53
Sulphur to Sugarcane / Secret, Profane and Sugarcane / Elvis Costello / 6:00
The Crooked Line / Secret, Profane and Sugarcane / Elvis Costello / 3:49
Elvis Costello hasn’t done a straight up country CD since his King of America CD back in the 80s. There was lots of good rootsy feel on his River In Reverse CD, but that was clearly a New Orleans funk/soul thing. In 2008, Elvis Costello made an appearance with Lucinda Williams on her CD Honey Bee with a tongue in cheek cover of “Jailhouse Tears”.
But now. Now we get a full-on country-folk-rock-whatever CD from Elvis Costello, Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane and let’s just say that Elvis Costello gets his twang on. T Bone Burnett produced it and the backing band features Jerry Douglas on Dobro, Dennis Crouch on bass, Stuart Duncan on fiddle and banjo, and Jim Lauderdale as backing vocals.
Like his Momofuku CD, this CD was recorded super fast. All tracks were recorded in a three day period giving them a fast and loos style that is perfect for the material.
Highlights for me include “Sulphur to Sugarcane,” “The Crooked Line” (with Emmylou Harris),
“I Felt The Child” (co written with Loretta Lynn), “Complicated Shadows,” and “Down Among The Wine And Spirits”
If the myth is true, Elvis Costello’s latest CD, Momofuku is named after the inventor of Ramen noodles and the image of noodles immediately appearing after adding hot water is apt because Costello is getting on the band wagon of recording songs fast, making them up in the studio as they go along, and not worrying about smoothing out the rough spots. As always, Costello’s songs are one long rock-n-roll enigma, but they _sound_ so tight modern-yet-classic you just want to embrace the mystery rather than solve it. I enjoyed “No Hiding Place,” “American Gangster Time,” “Drum and Bone,” “Flutter and Wow.” The stand out tracks for me are “Stella Hurt,” and “Go Away.”