The record was produced by T Bone Burnett and recorded by Mike Piersante during a three-day session at Nashville’s Sound Emporium Studio.

Joining Costello were Jerry Douglas (dobro), Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Mike Compton (mandolin), Jeff Taylor (accordion) and Dennis Crouch (double bass), some of the most highly regarded recording artists and musicians in traditional American country music, Bluegrass and beyond.


The album includes ten previously unrecorded songs. “Sulphur to Sugarcane” and “The Crooked Line”, were co-written with T Bone Burnett while, “I Felt The Chill” marks Costello’s second recorded songwriting collaboration with Loretta Lynn.



Costello revisits two songs from his catalogue in string band style. Both songs were originally written for Johnny Cash. “Hidden Shame” was indeed included on Cash’s album, “Boom Chicka Boom”. The album title makes reference to “The Secret Songs”, Costello’s unfinished commission for the Royal Danish Opera about the life of Hans Christian Andersen.


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



Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane , the latest release by Elvis Costello, is dominated by acoustic music, heralding a return to the musical style of his 1986 album, King Of America . Ever the storyteller, Costello’s lyrics feature musings on Hans Christian Anderson, P.T. Barnum, and the abolitionist movement. Costello also offers his second collaboration with Loretta Lynn on track “I Felt The Chill.”

Seeking a new connection from the author to the Anglophone world, Costello wrote about the Andersen’s relationship with the world famous singer, Jenny Lind in “She Handed Me A Mirror” and “How Deep Is The Red”.

“She Was No Good” relates some of the chaotic details of Lind’s famous “All-American” concert tour of 1850, which was promoted by P.T. Barnum. In its aftermath, “Red Cotton” imagines Barnum reading an Abolishionist pamphlet, while manufacturing cheap souvenirs of the adventure.

These four episodes were newly adapted for the instrumentation of this record. Indeed, these are first Costello compositions to be predominantly rooted in acoustic music since his 1986 album, King of AmericaELVIS COSTELLO - SECRET, PROFANE & SUGARCANE 1, which was produced by T Bone Burnett. He also produced the 1989 album, SpikeELVIS COSTELLO - SECRET, PROFANE & SUGARCANE 3.

T Bone adds his distinctive Kay electric guitar to several of numbers, the only amplified instrument on the recording. These licks and their Americana roots make this album one of Costello’s most experimental in years. If you’re not hooked by the Tony Millionaire album art, then I don’t know what will do it for you. Therefore, I’d recommend this CD as a blind buy to all serious music fans. 


Final Score: 98% –A


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