Album Review

Elvis Costello, 'Secret, Profane & Sugarcane'

June 1, 2009
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Elvis Costello Secret, Profane & Sugarcane
Hear Music
ESSENTIAL "I Felt the Chill"

Elvis Costello has flirted with country music in the 28 years since his classic covers homage "Almost Blue," but "Secret" marks a full-blown return to Nashville with splendid results. Unlike "Blue," Costello hit Music City with a mix of strong originals - some new, some repurposed - save the vintage barn-dance take on the Patti Page/Bing Crosby oldie "Changing Partners." He and a dream team of collaborators, including producer T Bone Burnett and harmony vocalist Jim Lauderdale, then whipped the project together in a week. Burnett presents the mostly acoustic music in his usual spare and upfront fashion, while Costello croons and the A-list instrumentalist likes of fiddler Stuart Duncan and dobroist Jerry Douglas do their thing to classic tales of adultery, heartbreak, and inebriation. The best of these include the aching cheater drama "I Felt the Chill" and the lilting, Cajun-spiced "The Crooked Line," which features Emmylou Harris adding her flinty vocal shades. Costello is a longtime fan of classic country music, and occasionally that devotion manifests itself as unnecessary vocal or stylistic affects. But a little extra corn and twang are forgiven when songs about feeling low can lift you high, or at least keep you company on the floor. (Out tomorrow) SARAH RODMAN