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CD Review: Elvis Costello 

Secret, Profane and Sugargane (Hear)

The last time Elvis Costello and T Bone Burnett made an album together was 1986's King of America, Costello's last great record. Since then, Costello has settled into a sort of hipster sage, while Burnett's become the curator of tasteful Americana, scoring with the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' rootsy Raising Sand. Secret, Profane & Sugarcane follows a similar template: unplugged, stylish, subtle ... and kinda boring when you peel away its classy shell. The songs are a mix of old and new. Some were recorded by other artists (Loretta Lynn covered "Down Among the Wine and Spirits"), and Costello has even done some of them before (like "Complicated Shadows," which was on 1996's All This Useless Beauty). Working with members of the same crack band that backed Plant and Krauss, Costello glides through a set of twangy country, laid-back folk and urbane pop. And much of it's refined to the point of dullness. — Michael Gallucci


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