The record was produced by T Bone Burnett and recorded by Mike Piersante during a three-day session at Nashville's Sound Emporium Studio. Joining Costello were Jerry Douglas (dobro), Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Mike Compton (mandolin), Jeff Taylor (accordion) and Dennis Crouch (double bass), some of the most highly regarded recording artists and musicians in traditional American country music, Bluegrass and beyond. The album includes ten previously unrecorded songs. "Sulphur to Sugarcane" and "The Crooked Line", were co-written with T Bone Burnett while, "I Felt The Chill" marks Costello's second recorded songwriting collaboration with Loretta Lynn. Costello revisits two songs from his catalogue in string band style. Both songs were originally written for Johnny Cash. "Hidden Shame" was indeed included on Cash's album, "Boom Chicka Boom". The album title makes reference to "The Secret Songs", Costello's unfinished commission for the Royal Danish Opera about the life of Hans Christian Andersen. Seeking a new connection from the author to the Anglophone world, Costello wrote about the Andersen's relationship with the world famous singer, Jenny Lind in "She Handed Me A Mirror" and "How Deep Is The Red". "She Was No Good", relates some of the chaotic details of Lind's famous "All-American" concert tour of 1850, which was promoted by P.T. Barnum. In its aftermath, "Red Cotton" imagines Barnum reading an Abolishionist pamphlet, while manufacturing cheap souvenirs of the adventure. These four episodes were newly adapted for the instrumentation of this record. Indeed these are first Costello compositions to be predominantly rooted in acoustic music since his 1986 album, "King Of America", which was produced by T Bone Burnett. He also produced the 1989 album, "Spike". T Bone adds his distinctive Kay electric guitar to several of numbers, the only amplified instrument on the recording. Jim Lauderdale takes the close vocal harmony part throughout the record and Emmylou Harris contributed a third vocal part on the chorus of "The Crooked Line" on the final day of recording. The record concludes with the waltz, "Changing Partners", a song made famous by Bing Crosby. The cover artwork of "Secret, Profane & Sugarcane" is an ink drawing by the renowned cartoonist, illustrator and author, Tony Millionaire. Elvis Costello first recorded in Nashville with George Jones in 1979 and returned to the city for "Almost Blue", his 1981 album of classic country covers. He returned to the city in 2004 to record a duet rendition of "The Scarlet Tide" with Emmylou Harris. This song, co-written with T Bone Burnett, received an Academy Award nomination for Alison Krauss' rendition in the motion picture, "Cold Mountain" in 2003.
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Going back to Nashville ! Tight songwriting, impeccable exce
India | 06/04/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Do you remember his collaborations with Burt Bacharach? With Allen Toussaint? With Anne Sophie von Otter? Or hooking up with T-Bone Burnett for some of those rootsy string-band settings that proved popular for Robert Plant & Alison Krauss?
Well, on this one, the master of re-invention is back on familiar ground, back to Nashville.
Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett first crossed acoustic guitars in 1984 in the guise of the Coward Brothers. and they hit the road as duo.
Twenty years after their last performances as a duo, Costello and Burnett reunited for a set at a 2006 San Francisco bluegrass festival.
They were backed by three stalwarts of the genre, all Burnett regulars: fiddler Stuart Duncan, mandolin player Mike Compton and standup bassist Dennis Crouch. Two years later, the three pickers, along with dobro virtuoso Jerry Douglas, gathered in Studio A at Nashville's righteously old-school Sound Emporium - where Burnett and his brilliant engineer Mike Piersante had cut the soundtracks to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", "Cold Mountain" and "Walk The Line", along with Robert Plant & Alison Krauss' modern-day classic Raising Sand.
"Secret, Profane & Sugarcane", Costello's first country album since King of America was recorded in just three days. T Bone Burnett (who helmed Costello's 1986 album, "King of America" -- and, less memorably, 1989's Spike) is in the producer's chair.
Emmylou Harris adds her burnished alto to one song that Burnett co-writes, "The Crooked Line" and the band is made up of top-rank country and bluegrass session men.
On this album we are far from the siren lure of Plant & Krauss's harmonies. But the result is equally intriguing.
This collection of songs is more rootsy than 1981's Almost Blue. Costello's dalliance in fiddly, old-time country music almost feels like a return to base camp. The tracks are predominantly acoustic but retain a fiercely contemporary feel despite being drenched in bluegrass traditions.
Costello's at times strained honk is warmed by the close harmonies of Jim Lauderdale and set against exquisite mandolin, soaring fiddle, double bass and accordion.
There are many nods to the country-music establishment -- songs originally composed for the late Johnny Cash, one co-written with Loretta Lynn -- but this is essentially music of the moment.
"Down Among the Wine and Spirits", "How Deep Is the Red" and "Sulphur to Sugarcane" - the latter is another Burnett co-write in the spirit of Cash's "I've Been Everywhere" - all speak of a man securely in touch with his muse.
On the title refrain of "How Deep Is The Red" and the following "She Was No Good", a pair of art songs from Costello's 2005 Hans Christian Anderson commission for the Royal Danish Opera - the effect might sound lugubrious, with no impetus and not memorable, despite the impeccable execution.
"Red Cotton", the last of the Andersen songs, is the most gripping ballad entry, functioning as a sort of sequel to Randy Newman's "Sail Away", while "Changing Partners", which Costello learned from a Bing Crosby record, closes the album on a classic note". - Uncut
There's no flash and filigree here, just the reassuring sound of solid craftsmanship unselfishly placed in the service of deft narratives of ordinary lives, shot through with extraordinary emotion.
According to some, the album is a little too languid, too cluttered and the songs rarely catch fire.
Truth is: playing it so unusually safe is no bad thing for Costello, his songwriting remains impeccably tight and this is an album, full of good stuff and reveals a host of immediately enjoyable songs.
Highlights: "Down Among the Wines and Spirits", "Hidden Shame", the delightful "Sulphur To Sugarcane" and the magnificently wordly "My All Time Doll", delivered by Costello with restrained intensity.
Painted from Memory
The River in Reverse
For the Stars"
I'm in Like, but not in Love.
A Fan | Chicago | 06/02/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is an extremely well produced disc full of great performances but I fear that it will not get a lot of future play in my rotation. There are certainly standout tracks, "Hidden Shame" is every bit as good as the version by The Man in Black; I enjoyed "Sulphur to Sugarcane" when he previewed it on his solo acoustic tour with Dylan and I like it even more on this disc. "I Felt the Chill" and "Changing Partners" are also standouts (although, as with any Costello album my favorites change). "Complicated Shadows", on the other hand, falls flat from its previous Rolling-Stones-rave-up arrangement and sounds oddly rushed and disjointed here. The players really stand out, though. Love the mandolin, Dobro and bass. And Jim Lauderdale's voice complements Costello's beautifully. Curious to see how they work together live this summer."
Elvis the wizard.
Visa | Malmö, SE | 07/30/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very strong collections of songs dressed up in a acustic outfit. And no drums just lika the other Elvis FIRST recordings. Just a few reflections about this artist. To have one of his best periods ("When I Was Crule" 2002 and "Momofuku" 2008 is also 5 stars records) after 30 years in rock & rollbizzniz is quite something. And so is his way to work without any musical borders. 4 of the songs here was written and preformed first as an opera (Elvis sanged them with a Swedish operagirl in Copenhagens operahouse in 2005) but here they appear as hillbilly-songs. Could two musicstyles be more different? And it works wonderfull! Remember also "For The Stars": Operastar Anne Sofie Von Otter and pubrocklegend Billy Bremner on the same recordings! A pint of champagne, please!"