Secret, Profane And Sugarcane

Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello an American icon. Actually, he’s from England, but you wouldn’t know it with Secret, Profane And Sugarcane . Costello again explores the roots of country and rock. Listening to this, you would assume he’s an American classic like Johnny Cash, Willy Nelson or Bob Dylan. If you are looking for hits like “Watching The Detectives” or “Alison,” this is not your CD. If you appreciate the singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar, then this is your CD.

For this outing, Costello has teamed up with long-time collaborator and producer T Bone Burnette. He also has an all-star lineup on the record: Jerry Douglas (dobro), Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Mike Compton (mandolin), Jeff Taylor (accordion) and Dennis Crouch (double bass) — some of the most highly regarded musicians in traditional American country music, Bluegrass and beyond.

Together, they spent three days at Nashville’s Sound Emporium Studio with Mike Piersante at the boards. You get classic American songs like “Change Partners,” made famous by Bing Crosby. There are 10 new songs, two of which debuted on the The Bob Dylan Show radio show in late 2007. “I Felt The Chill” marks Costello’s second recorded songwriting collaboration with Loretta Lynn. Yet the obvious favorite is the single, “Complicated Shadows.”

Costello has evolved from the angry punk artist we first saw in the 70s to the Renaissance man with flair and a knack for composition. He has dabbled with Tin Pan Alley pop, reggae, classical, jazz — you name it. Secret, Profane And Sugarcane resembles his Almost Blue album of country covers, recorded in Nashville with the Attractions in 1981. It really showed his love of American music roots.

There had always been a subtle twang to Costello’s first few records, but this time he showed an ability to cross over. He further explored this genre with his Momofuku, released in 2008, witch hinted at the singer’s love for the South. Country legends Rosanne Cash and Loretta Lynn even helped write some of the tunes.

“Complicated Shadows” stands alone and doesn’t represent the feel of this album. “I Felt the Chill,” “How Deep Is The Red” and “Sulphur And Sugarcane” highlight Costello’s ability to tell a story, well balanced with a country flavor to make it interesting. At times, Costello is a little too country for his own good, which might turn off the usual Elvis Costello fan. Then again, his voice is as much an instrument as the guitar and that may make it all worth it. Only your ears can decide.

~ John Minichiello

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