New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 2, 2009

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New Orleans Times-Picayune


Elvis Costello mines Americana
on latest CD Secret, Profane & Sugarcane

Keith I. Marszalek

Elvis Costello's newest album, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, jumps on the Americana bus, with mandolin, accordion and fiddle the instruments of choice.

Recorded in Nashville in three days and produced by T Bone Burnett, who helmed Costello's country-tinged album King of America in 1986, and also 1989's Spike, Secret ambles and warbles with rootsy aplomb.

It's a 180-degree turn from last year's Momofuku, Costello's rock-based outing with band the Imposters.

This time, songs such as "I Felt the Chill," co-written by country queen Loretta Lynn, wind through acoustic territory, with harmony wafting throughout. Costello wrote or co-wrote all but one track on the album.

"There's a difference in the way that you kiss me/ There's a sadness in your eyes that you can't hide," he sings in his wavering vibrato on "Chill," about a fallen relationship.

Though steeped in Americana twang, four songs on the album were originally commissioned in 2005 by the Royal Danish Opera for a piece about author Hans Christian Andersen. The tunes focus on Anderson's love for Swedish songbird Jenny Lind, and "She Was No Good" recalls Lind's tour across the U.S. in 1850, organized by P.T. Barnum.

It's a dense, detailed tune -- full of references to daggers drawn and pistols pulled, with bursts of howling -- and shows just how talented a storyteller Costello continues to be, regardless of genre.

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: "The Crooked Line," co-written by Burnett, is pure sweet country, a lovely old-time melding of Costello's soaring voice and harmony by the sublime Emmylou Harris.


The Times-Picayune, June 2, 2009

Keith I. Marszalek reviews Secret, Profane & Sugarcane.


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