T Bone Burnett: Tooth of Crime (Nonesuch)

 |   |  1 min read

T Bone Burnett: The Rat Age
T Bone Burnett: Tooth of Crime (Nonesuch)

Burnett might not be a household name but you can bet his name is in the small print in many households: among other albums he has produced are Los Lobos' How Will the Wolf Survive?, a couple for Elvis Costello in the mid-late 80s, two for Gillian Welch (Revival, Hell Among the Yearlings), various soundtracks and incidental music (Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, Down From the Mountain), the recent Robert Plant/Alison Krauss album Raising Sand . . .

And he's done so much more, including a few albums under his own name.

This is an odd one though and you don't come here if you really liked Oh Brother or Raising Sand.

Back in the mid 90s Burnett wrote the music for an off-Broadway production of a play by renegade writer Sam Shepherd (they had both been on Dylan's Rolling Thunder Tour incidentally) but was never entirely satisfied with the results.

And so a mere decade later (forgive him, he was busy) here is the album and it is in parts quite stunning: the eerie ballad Kill Zone was co-written with Roy Orbison (you'd love to have heard the Big O's version); there are weird spoken-word lyrics drawn from the theme of Shepherd's play about two musical rivals which seem to suggest some interplentary theme; hints of Tom Waits' clank'n'grind style; musical dislocations that can be unnerving if not irritating . . .

Even those who lined up for Burnett's previous, more conservative albums might find this a challenge. But the rewards and enticements are many: the odd production which has a mesmering, industrial quality; the John Zorn-like discomforts; the atmospheric guitar of Marc Ribot and angular drumming of Jim Keltner designed to keep you on edge, and the peculiarly menacing moody blues feel throughout. Not an easy prospect and perhaps even flawed, but my guess is that it will -- like some of Waits' albums -- grow in stature over time.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 John Grant: Queen of Denmark (Shock)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 John Grant: Queen of Denmark (Shock)

Although he recorded three albums with the band the Czars, we should perhaps treat this quite exceptional, moving, funny, droll and heart-breaking singer-songwriter as a new artist. And on those... > Read more

Dog Age: Good Day (theactivelistener)

Dog Age: Good Day (theactivelistener)

Here's the problem when neo-psychedelic artists posit themselves too exactly into a period and style, in this case specifically Lennon '67. These Norwegians have certainly got the trippy ethos... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Ross, South Island of New Zealand: Home is where the hearth is

Ross, South Island of New Zealand: Home is where the hearth is

Good historic hotels are getting harder to find. Increasingly the elderly pubs of the nation are being gentrified and scrubbed clean. Their walls are being painted up nice, a colour consultant is... > Read more

The Cranberries: Even the faithful departed

The Cranberries: Even the faithful departed

At the time, flying from London to Tokyo to interview the Cranberries seemed like a good idea. It was May '96 and they would be coming to New Zealand for a show shortly afterwards. My job -- at... > Read more