New Elvis Costello Album on the Way
From one of the most unnecessarily detailed press releases I’ve ever read.:
Elvis Costello’s National Ransom Set For Release October 25th International & November 2nd U.S.A
From Hear Music/Concord Music Group;
Produced By T Bone Burnett
All members of The Imposters and The Sugarcanes feature in a wide variety of groovy new combos with guests Vince Gill, Marc Ribot, Buddy Miller and Leon Russell
“Around the time the killing stopped on Wall St.
You couldn’t hold me, baby, with anything but contempt”
The record is led off by the loud electric guitar of Marc Ribot in the left channel and the lap-steel of Jerry Douglas in the right channel. Steve Nieve enters on the Vox Continental organ, while the rhythm section consists of Dennis Crouch on double bass and Pete Thomas on drums. National Ransom (Hear Music/Concord Music Group) is the name of the album and also a rock and roll song, “For the bankrupt times, whenever they may be,” as Costello recently described it.
National Ransom, recorded in a total of eleven days at Sound Emporium, Nashville and Village Recorders, Los Angeles was produced by T Bone Burnett and engineered and mixed by Michael Piersante at Electromagetic, Los Angeles.
All of these songs are newly composed by Costello with the exception of “I Lost You,” co-written with Jim Lauderdale and “All These Strangers,” for which Costello and T Bone Burnett collaborated on the lyrics. Costello and Burnett also provide the lyrics for “My Lovely Jezebel,” a Leon Russell rock and roll tune and he leads Thomas/Crouch/Ribot combo from the piano.
“Loose change lonely, not the right amount”
The album’s second track, “Jimmie Standing In The Rain,” recalls the misfortunes of a cowboy singer playing the northern English musical halls in 1937. The music owes a little something to that time. The ensemble for this song includes: the acoustic guitar of Marc Ribot, violinist Stuart Duncan, Dennis Crouch on double bass and The Sugarcanes’ accordionist Jeff Taylor playing piano. Darrell Leonard adds the trumpet commentary.
“Farewell my little ballyhooo, you broke my heart in two”
“A Slow Drag With Josephine” described by Costello as “rock and roll, as it sounded in 1921” has been a highlight of recent Costello live shows. Mandolinist, Mike Compton sings the close vocal harmony. On “Five Small Words,” The Imposters rhythm section – Davey Faragher and Pete Thomas – combine with the twin electric guitars of The Coward Brothers. Howard Coward also plays Farfisa organ, while Mike Compton once again provides the vocal harmony.
“The water came up to the eaves
You’d think that someone had opened a valve
It’s too soon to stay now and too late to leave
So spare your remorse all the way up to Calvary”
“Stations Of The Cross” – in which disasters are regarded from a safe and depraved distance and “Church Underground” – tracing the life of a nightclub singer from obscurity through infamy to a harsh final redemption – are arranged around Steve Nieve’s grand piano with Stuart Duncan’s electric violin or viola, Jerry Douglas’ lap-steel and the Crouch/Thomas rhythm section. The latter song also features a four-piece section of flugel horn, trombones and baritone saxophone, arranged by Darrell Leonard.
“Turn up the music just to turn it down.
The trivial secrets buried with the profound”
Despite the presence of lap-steel, mandolin, dobro and fiddle throughout the record, the music probably owes more to the rhythms and harmonies of R&B, or even Gospel music, than to Bluegrass. Vince Gill adds a beautiful vocal harmony part to the chorus of a string-band tune, “Dr. Watson, I Presume,” on which the Sugarcanes full instrumental line-up is heard together with Pete Thomas, Marc Ribot and the baritone guitar of Buddy Miller, who also sings on the title cut.
The ballad accompaniments range from a single acoustic guitar and double bass on “Bullets For The New-Born King” – a song in the voice of a regretful assassin – to a hushed 21-piece ensemble for, “You Hung The Moon” – a song about a séance held in 1919 as a family struggle with the loss of a soldier executed for desertion in the First World War.
“Lower the hood on his last lament, dash him down on the cold cement”
“One Bell Ringing,” in which a man has dreams of his own interrogation and demise is set in 2007. The song hears Costello’s finger-picked guitar and Dennis Crouch’s double bass augmented by singer’s own arrangement for bass trumpet, alto flute and bass clarinet.
Asked if National Ransom’s songs and their characters were set in specific times and places, Costello said, “Yes but I’d be happy if you imagine them any time you want.”
Speaking of the now and then, the album closes with “A Voice In The Dark”, a hopeful, good humoured song that is the lyrical bookend to the harum-scarum of “National Ransom”
“King’s reign beneath umbrellas
Hide pennies down in cellars
And money pours down and yet
Not everyone gets soaking wet”
Tony Millionaire once again provides the ink illustration for the cover.
National Ransom Track List
1. National Ransom
2. Jimmie Standing in the Rain
3. Stations of the Cross
4. A Slow Drag With Josephine
5. Five Small Words
6. Church Underground
7. You Hung the Moon
8. Bullets for the New-Born King
9. I Lost You
10. Dr Watson, I Presume
11. One Bell Ringing
12. The Spell That You Cast
13. That’s Not The Part of Him You’re Leaving
14. My Lovely Jezebel
15. All These Strangers
16. A Voice In The Dark