Sulphur to sugarcane....
Released June 2009
This is a country rock record from Elvis Costello, a bit similar to some of the material on 1986's "King Of America", but far more rootsy and country-bluesy than that album, which still contained many echoes of his recent at the time work with The Attractions. There are no such throwbacks on this one. It is probably the rootsiest album he had recorded thus far.
1. Down Among The Wine & Spirits
2. Compicated 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
Kicking off is the lively country blues of "Down Among The Wine & Spirits" then, funnily enough, we get a cover of a 1996 Attractions number, from "All this Useless Beauty", "Complicated Shadows", but done in an acoustic style. "I Felt The Chill Before The Winter Came" is a mournful, folky lament backed by a solid bass and evocative fiddle. "My All Time Doll" is a folk ballad reminiscent of some of the material on "Spike". It has some really haunting fiddle at the end. "Hidden Shame" brings to mind "The People's Limousine"and "Glitter Gulch" from "King Of America", in its jaunty countriness.
"She Handed Me A Mirror" is a stark, evocative ballad, as indeed are "I Dreamed Of My Old Lover" and "How Deep Is The Red". The latter are more intricate, musically, but all three are slow-paced numbers. "She Was No Good" is a muscular, powerful, but starkly backed folk ballad. The pace of the album has become very sombre and reflective by now.
The bluesy and vaguely jazzy "Sulphur & Sugarcane" lifts the mood somewhat, with a rich, bassy swing and good-time feel. This is a most catchy track, one of my favourites on here. "Red Cotton" is a tale of seafaring, trading out of the port of Liverpool and so on, sung over a folky banjo. An upbeat sound arrives with the Cajun strains of "The Crooked Line". Another good one. The solemn "Changing Partners" ends the album with a yearning, heartfelt country song.
This is an unusual, rootsy country album but its tone is a little too mournful throughout, which is unusual for Costello albums, as he normally ups the pace more than just a few times in thirteen songs. If you are in a quiet mood, however, it does the trick.