Elvis Costello – Secret, Profane & Sugarcane Elvis Costello – Secret, Profane & Sugarcane

Elvis Costello – Secret, Profane & Sugarcane

Elvis Costello – Secret, Profane & Sugarcane

To generalize Secret, Profane & Sugarcane as “his bluegrass record” would hardly be flattering. No, this an Elvis Costello bluegrass record, and everything that name suggests is palpable throughout this rare strictly-acoustic outing as it is on his angry-young-man back catalogue. Sure, there’s plenty of strumming, fiddle flourishes, weeping dobro, along with all the other standard bluegrass fixins, but all of it takes a back seat to the man himself.

Surely not one to settle for rudimentary country chord progressions and song structures, Costello’s take on bluegrass is a kind of jazzy, Creole stew. “My All Time Doll” is just as menacing as his classic, haunting “I Want You.” “She Handed Me A Mirror” is stuffed with high melodrama and uncomfortable changes. “How Deep Is The Red?” is moody pop that could easily be at home on the excellent When I Was Cruel, given a few minor production and instrumentation tweaks. And while all of the lyrical vignettes are set in riverboat-era 19th century America to better fit their sonic surroundings, you’ll still need a dictionary handy while scanning his lyrics. “Gentian violet”? “Genteel Northern prosceniums”? “Tippling tinctures”? Jeez, I love this guy.

But the highlight of the album is the rambling, hilarious epic “Sulphur to Sugarcane,” which follows the conquests of a traveling rake as he gets women drunk in just about every state, featuring such golden lyrical nuggets as, “I’m not here to hurt/ I’m here to steal your virtue.” Elvis and the band sound like they’re having a grand ol’ time, and their joy is pretty contagious, which is in no small way aided by T Bone Burnett’s honest, strictly-live production. For a pit stop in between Imposters albums, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane is pleasantly solid, which only affirms my belief that Elvis Costello is incapable of putting out a bad album (well… almost. It’s probably best to forget about Goodbye Cruel World).

Elvis Costello - Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, reviewed by Squeri on 2009-06-03T15:05:11-07:00 rating 3.8 out of 5

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