Elvis Costello's third collaboration with T-Bone Burnett splits the difference between his first two: It's better than 1989's all-over-the-place Spike, but not as good as 1986's sharply focused King of America.
It's a set of ballads with subtle acoustic country and bluegrass backing, not quite so atmospheric as Burnett's most recent noteworthy production, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' Raising Sand.
The cable talk-show host is never at a loss for words or new songs, but here he also reinterprets tunes previously targeted for other projects. The standout, and one welcome up-tempo cut, "Hidden Shame," for instance, originally was written for Johnny Cash and also was released as a demo version on Costello's 2001 album All This Useless Beauty.
Emmylou Harris sings harmony on the quite lovely fiddle-fired "The Crooked Line," cowritten by Burnett, and "I Felt the Chill" is a choked and touching lament cowritten with Loretta Lynn that's a comeback, of sorts, to Lynn's "When the Tingle Becomes A Chill."
Too many mid-tempo tunes lined up back-to-back, but otherwise a solid addition to the Costello oeuvre.