Review: Elvis Costello's Secret, Profane & Sugarcane (with video)

For the last dozen or so years, Elvis Costello has switched genres like he was trying on shirts at the outlet mall: orchestral works, New Orleans R&B with Allen Toussaint, stately ballads with Swedish messo-soprano Anne-Sofie von Otter, a writing collaboration with Burt Bacharach and a jazz summit with Bill Frisell. He even managed to squeeze in a bit of rock ‘n’ roll.

While his musical bed-hopping sounds like fun, it has served to render his artistic vision a bit fuzzy. The “what will Costello come up with next?” question started to grow tiresome a few outings ago.

Which brings us to Secret, Profane & Sugarcane — his first for Starbucks’ Hear Music imprint — wherein he calls on producer T Bone Burnett and gets the full-on T Bone treatment. Yup, acoustic guitar, Dobro, mandolin, fiddle, upright bass, banjo, accordion, mountain music arrangements, the tunes configured into contemporary takes old-timey Americana (matched by the CD packaging).

You may recall that Burnett was at the helm for Robert Plant and Allison Krauss’ Raising Sand, a serendipitous convergence of talent that went Grammy wild.

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About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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