Academic journal article Notes

Elvis Costello

Academic journal article Notes

Elvis Costello

Article excerpt

Elvis Costello. Secret, Profane & Sugarcane. Hear Music HRM-31280-02, 2009.

Anyone who has followed Elvis Costello's prolific and peripatetic career over the past three decades can be forgiven for approaching his latest release with some trepidation. He has repeatedly shown himself unwilling to sacrifice clever wordplay in the service of his songs' structural coherence, and the success of his forays into American country music has been notoriously uneven. This album's title does little to dispel concerns about the former tendency, and the composition of his backing band (which consists of first-call bluegrass sessioneers Jerry Douglas, Mike Compton, and Smart Duncan, among others), raises little red flags of concern as well--can we expect King of America at its best or The Delivery Man at its worst? The answer is a little of both. Costello is still far too anxious to show off his cleverness; he cannot leave it up to us to discover that "How Deep is the Red?" is a secular adaptation of an old gospel song, nor can he resist the temptation to give each song a little subtitle in faux-nineteenth-century salon-song dialect ("Dissatisfied Woman Fears Talking in Her Sleep," "The Terrible Confession of a Life-long Petty Criminal," etc. …

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