At this stage of his career, Elvis Costello is most convincing when he goes Americana. His best album of this decade, The Delivery Man, found him recording in Oxford, Mississippi, and harmonizing with Lucinda Williams, and here he teams with old pal T Bone Burnett and cuts a bunch of bluegrass-inflected, Dobro-and-violin ballads.
Only with his countrified material has he found a consistently comfortable groove for the one theme that never fails to fascinate him: doomed, obsessive love. In 1986, Burnett lifted Costello out of over-production doldrums with the stripped-down King of America. Secret is similarly stark, with the gorgeous, wrenching “I Felt the Chill” (a collaboration with Loretta Lynn) and “I Dreamed of My Old Lover,” a desperate bid for the comforts of sleep. Costello even gets silly with “Sulphur to Sugarcane,” a horn-dog travelogue that tells us “the women in Poughkeepsie take their clothes off when they’re tipsy.” If this dude keeps it up, he just might get a slot at the Bluebird Café.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the San Antonio Press Club for as little as $5 a month.