Secret, Profane & Sugarcane

  • Record Label: Hear
  • Release Date: Jun 2, 2009
Metascore
70

Generally favorable reviews - based on 21 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 21
  2. Negative: 1 out of 21
  1. Cut in Nashville with ace session players, what might have been a disastrous mess in other hands coheres into one of Costello's most satisfying releases in some time.
  2. Costello sounds downright frisky at times on this acoustic set, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, which musically calls to mind 1986's sublime, countryish "King of America."
  3. It's Elvis (or Mr Diana Krall as he's also known) in fine, lovelorn country form.
  4. 80
    Most crucially, Costello manages--apart from the previously cited cringe-worthy lapses--to play along with Burnett’s in-soft/out-LOUD approach, making this his most engaging album in a very long time.
  5. 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.
  6. Unlike Costello's other excursions, Secret waters down his pretensions without losing his welcome pop sophistication.
  7. His prototypically clever and articulate lyrical work infuses the album with a native intelligence that transcends the inherent limitations of any given genre.
  8. Burnett's settings are much more stripped-down than his work on Robert Plant & Alison Krauss' "Raising Sand" but no less precise: 'My All Time Doll,' one of the strongest cuts, Jeff Taylor's accordion shades the desperation in Costello's lyric with just the right amount of sarcasm.
  9. Mojo
    80
    Costello has again hauled material from diverse regions of his writing life into a strangely cohesive cornucopia. [Jul 2009, p.96]
  10. The music brings out the terser side of one of pop's most prolix lyricists, with some spectacular results.
  11. Under The Radar
    80
    With Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, Costello once again hits his mark and makes yet another case for his position among the greatest songwriters of his generation. [Summer 2009, p.65]
  12. With considerable contributions from producer T-Bone Burnett and star string players out of Nashville (where the collection was recorded) including fiddler Stuart Duncan, dobra ace Jerry Douglas, mandolinist Mike Compton and upright bassist Dennis Crouch, Costello instills much of this outing with a fitting old-timey feel.
  13. Despite the occasional stuffiness, there's a lot of good material here and it's all executed well, but it's hard not to shake the feeling that this is a collection of leftovers masquerading as a main course.
  14. 70
    Pairing with producer T-Bone Burnett (who helmed 1986's rootsy antecedent "King of America") and a distinguished pickup band of country heavyweights, he gives his typically fussed-over tunes a tent-revival authority.
User Score
6.3

Generally favorable reviews- based on 8 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 2 out of 3
  1. TDG
    Jun 16, 2009
    0
    If you're going to make a country-themed album, you do it in Nashville. I get it. But I don't get this work from EC. The song If you're going to make a country-themed album, you do it in Nashville. I get it. But I don't get this work from EC. The song cowritten with Loretta Lynn is interesting, but the Hans Christian Anderson angle combined with the twang = fail. There's not much to really love about the effort, although the band is fine as is EC's singing. But it's all rather carried out rather than enthusiastic. Why bother? Next. Full Review »
  2. DrewD
    Jun 7, 2009
    0
    I am a big Costello fan, but, like most of the distracting singer-songwriter tosh Barnes and Noble plays on repeat to keep people from I am a big Costello fan, but, like most of the distracting singer-songwriter tosh Barnes and Noble plays on repeat to keep people from reading in their stores, there is no reason for this album to exist and I think Costello knows that too. Like Rob Pollard, he seems content to just produce produce produce indiscriminately, refusing to sort the good (or even tolerable) from the crap. Elvis is a pop connoisseur; he knows the good from bad. So why would he release this? It's an album of nothing; I refuse to believe that he actually considers these a quality set of songs. Sure, the backing band does what a backing band should do, and the production is sufficient, and every now and then Costello says something half clever, but it's all decoration hiding the fact that nothing's there. Not a single song is a keeper. Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, hell, even Neil Young and to an extent Randy Newman prove that just because you're old doesn't mean you can't still put out some great (if not quite classic-quality) material. Costello is sadly not a part of that group. Full Review »
  3. ConorD
    Jun 7, 2009
    8
    Approaches but never quite reaches perfection. Impeccable musicianship; for about the millionth time though, I wonder about Costello's Approaches but never quite reaches perfection. Impeccable musicianship; for about the millionth time though, I wonder about Costello's vocals. This isn't one for fans of The Attractions, but like T-Bone Burnett's previous work, Raising Sand, it may well end up as the year's middle-class dinner party background. Full Review »