Being the ever changing genre chameleon that he is, Mister Costello brings to the table a solid, stripped down, laid back country and in some parts almost bluegrassy long player. Costello recorded this album over three days in Nashville with T Bone Burnett alongside producing.
For me the standout tracks are Sulphur To Sugarcane, Down Among The Wine And Spirits and My All Time Doll. The rawness and richness of Costello’s voice certainly isn’t hindered with T Bone Burnett not over producing the hell out of it, but leaving it with a relaxed quality. Hidden Shame brings the tempo up, but don’t get too excited, it’s more of a mild barn dance sort of tempo.
On the other side of things, She Handed Me A Mirror was a bit too melancholy and slow for my liking and didn’t really showcase the kind of sound that he can get out of those pipes. Don’t expect any catchy sing-a-long tunes either. This is more of a background music kind of album as the middle section left me feeling rather sleepy.
Seeing as Johnny Cash is one of the only country artists I indulge in, I found the twangyness of the fiddles and such a little draining after a full listen. Cash also gets a proverbial nod as two of the songs re-recorded for this album were originally written for Cash and another, Hidden Shame, was originally on the Cash album ‘Boom Chicka Boom’.
Overall this record is a satisfying listen and I’d imagine that most people would enjoy at least some aspect of it. Whether it be the cheeky song lyrics of Sulphur To Sugarcane, the arrangements (if you’re more country music inclined), or the poetic but sometimes depressing lyrics in Complicated Shadows; “Though the fury’s hot and hard. I still see that cold graveyard. There’s a solitary stone, that’s got your name on.”
Elvis Costello is a consummate musician.