Elvis’ New Blue, Grass-stained Shoes
Elvis Costello and his six-member all-star backing band the Sugarcanes took the stage last night in Telluride. Jerry Douglas on dobro, Stuart Duncan on violin and Jim Lauderdale on guitar were parts of the musical backbone supporting Mr. Costello as he steps out in yet another musical direction in a new pair of shoes. These new shoes have some bluegrass stains, yet bear the familiar Elvis Costello logo.
The band opened with Mystery Train, followed by Stuart Duncan leading off Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down. Elvis’ raspy, breathy baritone- when backed by bluegrass instruments, at first seemed a little out of place to my ears. But then I noticed the blending and the bending. Blame It on Cain came with a structure and vocal phrasing that is unmistakably Elvis Costello’s.
Then came the rearranged Femme Fatale, followed by the haunting way Jerry Douglas made the dobro ring during Delivery Man, next- Friend of the Devil.
In each version, Mr. Costello did not attempt to conform to the genre. Instead, he took the genre and bent it in his unique direction. In the process, he may have created yet another sub-genre: Elvisgrass.
A reworked Everyday I Write the Book worked. Particularly impressive was an arrangement of a song from the new release Sacred, Profane and Sugarcane, where the whole exceeded the sum of the parts. I wish I knew the song title as this number was, to me, the highlight of the evening.
Joining the group onstage for awhile were Emmylou Harris and Jenny Lewis.
A couple of signature tunes, (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes and the final Peace, Love and Understanding rounded out the evening.
l to r, Duncan, Douglas, Costello
l to r, Costello, Mike Compton, Lauderdale and Jeff Taylor
Emmylou joins onstage