Elvis Costello's writing and recordings span many styles, and one of his favourite genres is country music. The legendary artist first ventured to Nashville in 1981 to record Almost Blue, which carried this label: "Warning — this album contains country & western music and may cause offence to narrow-minded listeners." One of his greatest recordings was 1986's country-flavoured King of America, produced by T Bone Burnett, best known for the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss album Raising Sand, both of which won Grammys — and popularized traditional country sounds.
Now Elvis has teamed up again with T Bone for another musical venture into America's heartland with Secret, Profane & Sugarcane. Recorded in Nashville, the album features nine songs by Elvis, two co-written with T Bone and one co-written with Loretta Lynn, as well as a charming cover of the 1950s hit "Changing Partners." With T Bone as his collaborator, Elvis has delivered another fine homage to American roots music.
On "Hidden Shame," originally written for Johnny Cash, Elvis pumps up the song's tempo and adds some driving fiddle. And his composition with Loretta, "I Felt the Chill Before the Winter Came," is palpable hurtin' music. Highlights are the songs on which Elvis shares songwriting with T Bone. "Sulfur to Sugarcane" is a rollicking, lusty hoot, while "The Crooked Line," featuring vocals from Emmylou Harris, is a heartfelt song of hope. With Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, Elvis has once again offered open-minded listeners a treat.