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Secret, Profane and Sugarcane

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Audio CD, June 2, 2009
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Declan MacManus is known as one of the most idiosyncratic new wave performers, under his alias Elvis Costello. The UK-born singer-songwriter had a string of Top 30 chart hits in the UK in the late 70s and early 80s, though his work throughout his career has always gathered critical respect.

Although he was initially marketed as a punk, his music originally seemed to sound more like ... Read more in Amazon's Elvis Costello Store

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Secret, Profane and Sugarcane + National Ransom + Momofuku
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 2, 2009)
  • Original Release Date: 2009
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: HEAR MUSIC
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,867 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Down Among the Wines and Spirits
2. Complicated Shadows
3. I Felt the Chill Before the Winter Came
4. My All Time Doll
5. Hidden Shame
6. She Handed Me a Mirror
7. I Dreamed of My Old Lover
8. How Deep Is the Red
9. She Was No Good
10. Sulphur to Sugarcane
11. Red Cotton
12. The Crooked Line
13. Changing Partners

Editorial Reviews

2009 album from the legendary singer/songwriter and Rock icon, which sees him returning to acoustic American roots music for the first time since his 1986 album King Of America. The album was produced by T Bone Burnett and recorded during a three-day session at Nashville's Sound Emporium Studio. Costello and Burnett have previously collaborated on King of America and Spike. Costello's band for the project includes such Bluegrass and traditional country musicians as Jerry Douglas (dobro), Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Mike Compton (mandolin), Jeff Taylor (accordion) and Dennis Crouch (double bass). Emmylou Harris sings on one song, and Burnett adds his Kay electric guitar sound to several songs, the only amplified instrument on the album. Ten of the album's tracks are new Costello compositions, including two written with Burnett. One song, " I Felt The Chill," was written by Costello and Loretta Lynn, while two of the album's tracks -- "Hidden Same" and "Boom Chicka Boom -- were originally written by Costello for Johnny Cash.

Customer Reviews

This new album by elvis costello kept my attention and had me fulfilled throughout the album.
M. Dumont
Despite all the hype for this project, I listened to it two or three times over, and came away thinking I really didn't care if I ever heard it again.
His voice works really well with instrumentation including Dobro, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and accordion.
Philip R. Heath

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lunar Boulevard on April 17, 2013
Format: Audio CD
Teaming up for another album with T Bone Burnett, Costello dives back into the world of bluegrass, country, Americana and folk for another rich and diverse offering that officially cements him as one of the greatest musical minds in history. This album finds him dealing with stories and themes of the South and it's Antebellum stylings, never ceasing to surprise at every twist and turn.

The album opens with "Down Among the Wines and Spirits", a brilliant and bluesy introduction that's both catchy and fun. It's clear which waters EC is choosing to sail and the trend continues with "Complicated Shadows", a re-done version of a song that previously appeared on All This Useless Beauty. This version trades the loud guitar and drums of the original for acoustic stylings and a country swagger. "She Handed Me a Mirror" and "Red Cotton" tell great stories while "Hidden Shame", "I Dreamed of My Old Lover" and "Sulfur to Sugarcane" all explore different areas of bluegrass and country. The tunes are unique but also accessible enough for those who aren't big fans of the genre. It's evident that Costello is a music lover and he does country better than most of today's country artists. If country and bluegrass were always done this brilliantly then I'd tune in much more often.

"The Crooked Line" is a fiddle-driven number that's just awesome and the closer, a cover of "Changing Partners", is dedicated to Cosetello's wife and it's a fitting and touching end to the album. However, it's the ballad "I Felt the Chill Before the Winter Came" that literally gives me chills. It's haunting and downright beautiful and an absolute essential for any curious listener. It's a classic Cosetello ballad of epic proportions and the fact that gets some help from Loretta Lynn just seals the deal.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Magnus Hägermyr on July 30, 2010
Format: Audio CD
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!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By shannon dzikas on September 11, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Really I can't say enough good things about this cd. It's been the go to album for every mood and every spare moment since receiving it. It's fun, it's intelligent, it's filled with history and mostly I can't help but sing along with every song. Track 10, Sulphur to Sugarcane is my new favorite song. Thank you Mr Costello for singing it at the Arlington in Santa Barbara a few months ago. And #4 My All Time Doll is sexy and sweet and gave me happy chills the first time I heard it. I could go on but this would turn into a love letter instead of a raving review. Buy it, Enjoy it, Sing your heart out along with it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joe Sage on November 8, 2010
Format: Audio CD
With "Secret, Profane & Sugarcane," Elvis explores a sort of bluegrass/New Orleans fusion and comes up smelling sweet ... after stinking a bit on "Momofuko."

For the most part, the production is spare and there are some similarities to "Juliet Letters" in the emphasis on vocals and harmonies, particularly in "She Handed me a Mirror." A few songs seem to have been bolted on - the two songs Elvis wrote for Johnny Cash, "Hidden Shame" and "Complicated Shadows" clearly were not written for Elvis. It sounds as if he struggles to avoid simply giving a vocal impression of the late Mr. Cash, and in the case of "Hidden Shame" he fails, which is unfortunate because it really is a wonderful song with beautiful, yet terrifying lyrics. "Complicated Shadows," which appeared previously on "Useless Beauty" is better suited to Elvis' voice, and the version here sounds more like a song from "Spike" than the other songs on this album, with the exception of "My All Time Doll" which also sounds like offspring from "Spike."

"She Was No Good" is one of Elvis' best songs ever - the lingering on key notes in the song underscores the beauty of the lyrics and the melody. The lead track is a great introduction to the overall concept of the album, and "Sulfur to Sugarcane," with its bawdy lyrics and downright profane refrain (I think we all know what he means by "sulfur") is a catchy little romp that keeps the toe tapping even on the fiftieth listen. I really wouldn't categorize this album as country (with the exception of "Hidden Shame"); it is more American folk with bluegrass influence.

While it isn't in the top five Costello albums of all time, it is an album that has become for me like an old friend - something I come back to with frequency and I never regret an hour spent with these well-crafted tunes.
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18 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Fan on June 2, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews


Topic From this Discussion
Is Elvis Costello Becoming the Robert DeNiro of Rock? Or is he Woody Allen?
"When I Was Cruel" is one of my favorites and definitely one of EC's better "loud" albums in the past 10 years, but I still find myself hitting the skip button on particular songs.

With "The Delivery Man" EC delivers all of the energy found in the best of "When... Read More
May 22, 2009 by A. McConnell |  See all 23 posts
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