Record Collector, July 2009

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Record Collector

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Almost bluegrass

Elvis Costello / Secret, Profane & Sugarcane

Terry Staunton

Writing and recording last year's garage-y Momofuku in little over a fortnight clearly appealed to Costello, as he's been even speedier in the studio this time round. Though he spent just three days in Nashville's Sound Emporium with producer T-Bone Burnett and some top-drawer traditional country musicians, many of the songs here have lengthier histories.

Two numbers originally written for Johnny Cash ("Hidden Shame," "Complicated Shadows") are obvious candidates for a mostly acoustic country and bluegrass record, while four adapted from an unfinished opera commission about Hans Christian Andersen tend to sound a little forced. Costello's on firmer ground with the Louvins-inspired "Down Among The Wine & Spirits" and his second co-write with Loretta Lynn, "I Felt The Chill."

The earlier touchstones for this project are undoubtedly Almost Blue and King Of America. The former album was arguably too mannered in its recreations of the lush late 60s Nashville Sound of strings and choirs, so it's the sepia-toned rustic country of the latter that will draw the most parallels. There are nowhere near as many strong tracks here, though, but it's still a weighty addition to a body of work that continues to buck trends and restlessly seek out fresh adventures.

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Record Collector, No. 364, July 2009


Terry Staunton reviews Secret, Profane & Sugarcane.

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