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Secret, Profane and Sugarcane
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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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you like Elvis Costello Music, just buy it. I wish it was more hardcore but meh, he's getting older just like me.Published on December 21, 2012 by W. Wood
Like so many writing here I go back a long way with Elvis Costello - first saw him with the pre attractions band in London in 75 or 76 - martin belmont and co, I think - then so... Read morePublished on September 21, 2010 by D'Arcy
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. Read morePublished on July 30, 2010 by Magnus Hägermyr
what a major disappointment, clearly Mr. Costello has lost relevance in today's music world.
This is merely a gimmicky attempt at producing a "new sound" to a "new... Read more
This is the worst album I've listened to in recent years. ALL of the songs are boring and meandering, the lyrics are trash, and the singing, oh boy, the singing wants to make you... Read morePublished on May 18, 2010 by Rock Expert
Elvis is everywhere and good for us. On Treme via HBO,on tour,on Sundance Channel's Spectacle and as Daddy to twins with Diana Krall so the musical empire will continue. Read morePublished on May 17, 2010 by mark isenberg