Tag Archives: elvis costello

Quite taken with Quiet About It, the new Jesse Winchester tribute disc, with Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint, Rodney Crowell, James Taylor and other regal folk. The must-hear is Lucinda Williams’ spin on “Mississippi You’re On My Mind.” 

Quiet About It 


EC at his most crisp. 

All the Duetting Elvis Costello Could Do At the Newport Folk Festival If Wanda Jackson Was Sigmund Freud’s Mother

E.C. has been on tour for the last several weeks, playing with that crack band of his, the Imposters. It’s the keenly touted, highly regarded “Spectacular Spinning Songbook,” where an audience member gooses a wheel with a bunch of tunes written on it, and the bandleader yieldsto Lady Luck while complying with aplomb.

That’s not the case for Costello’s Newport Folk Festival date, though. At Fort Adams he’s a troubadour, singing for his supper alone with a guitar. If you’ve caught some of his Spectacle work or one-off sessions like this, you know he’s pretty damn convincing in this realm.  It’s a tack that makes him  a bit more agile as well. Meaning it gives the compulsive collaborator a chance to share the stage with others. Impromptu is part of E.C.’s SOP, and festivals are supposed to nurture such intra-familial reveries.

So who could our man hook up with? Hmm…let’s see. Here are five suggestions:

1. Chris Thile & Michael Daves

Their new mandolin/guitar disc Sleep With One Eye Open (Nonesuch) is a hoot, bringing a rock ‘n’ roll energy to bluegrass gems. It would be swell to see Costello jump in the middle of a picking party like “Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” and take things up another notch.

2. Justin Townes Earle

From Hank Williams to Paul Westerberg, the young singer-songwriter knows plenty of tunes by plenty of artists. Perhaps Costello could make a flying leap into a romp through JTE’s recent cover of Buddy Holly’s “Maybe Baby.”

3. Wanda Jackson

E.C. overtly lobbied the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on behalf of the rockabilly queen’s artistic impact, and yep the institution gave her the green light in 2009. Maybe it was because Costello’s note said she rocked harder than Metallica.  He has sung harmony on “Cryin’ Time” with her, so that might be some low hanging fruit. But maybe something more exclamatory would do the job, like “Hot Dog, That Made Him Mad.” You recall how much verve went into Costello’s spin on “Leave My Kitten Alone,” right?

4.  Middle Brother

Three prime bandleaders who all stand in some section of Costello’s sizable shadow, McCauley, Goldsmith, and Vasquez would likely jump at the chance to have another sibling onstage. McCauley has already been tweeting about what he’ll say to his hero if he bumps into E.C. on site. With a day of busking in front of him, perhaps our Fest headliner would like to apply himself to a little rock ‘n’ roll. Evidently Middle Brother sometimes throws a dollop of Springsteen into the mix. That might suit Costello just fine.

5. Emmylou Harris 

They’re old pals, and long-time harmonizers. So I’ve got $3 that says something nifty crops up. Will it be “Heart-Shaped Bruise,” “The Scarlet Tide,” “Love Hurts,” or “I Still Miss Someone”? I’d throw an extra $5 on the pile if I could steer it towards “In My Hour of Darkness.” I think Costello takes PayPal.

WFUV.org broadcasts the Newport Folk Festival live all weekend. 

Saving Up For Things That $$$ Can’t Buy

There’s never been any doubt about Bruce Springsteen’s joy when it comes to rockin’ a little R&B, especially old school R&B. The E Street Band’s Mitch Ryder medley bent the girders of some joints back in the ’70s, and he’s shared a mic with Elvis Costello on Sam & Dave spins. Last spring it was “CC Rider” with some old pals. Last night it was nod to the Big Man with JT Bowen and the Soul Cruisers, and a romp through “Saving Up (For the Things Money Can’t Buy),” among many other tunes. What’s your fave R&B tune in the Springsteen book?

Stalkers, Obsession, and Teddybears: Meeowww

There’s a place, a weird psychological place, where what was once true love and deep longing trickle over into pernicious fascination and crazed privacy issues. Pop has addressed this from time to time; songs of obsession, like the Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” Blondie’s “One Way Or Another,” Eminem’s “Stan,” and now Lil Wayne’s “Dear Anne (Stan Part 2),” are always floating out there. But a romantic pledge has had the power to sound like a vague threat for decades. Check the way the Swedish electro-pop dudes Teddybears open the video for their terrific “Cho Cha” (from their triple terrific Devil’s Music): reaching back to the 1920s for “I’m Following You” by the Duncan Sisters. It’s not all set in the musty/dusty past however. In a nifty cameo, Fuse’s talk-show host CeeLo Green helps drive the psycho narrative, and using a bizarre sense of calm, he proves himself to be a decent little actor. Icing on the cake? The “star” of the clip is Jeff Turner, who once earned notoriety by actually sniffing around former teen star Tiffany a bit too closely. It was bent behavior for sure, and it ultimately plopped him in the stalker doc I Think We’re Alone Now.

Something creepy happens each time there’s a “meeowww” in the Teddybears tune. Something creepy happens in the tunes below as well (even if it’s unplanned). We tried to dodge the obvious titles while making our list of obsession tunes. Here are six that are sometimes overlooked.

Stately, profound, and by the crescendo of Death Cab’s eerie proclamation, masterful in explaining the way love can become poisonous.

Their wisecracks are a bit glib, but the Dan boys describe their ubiquitous fan with enough oddity to signal that something’s a bit off.

Early on EC said his songs were about sexual obsession; here’s the ultimate example, which turns out to be as predatory as possible.

You can tell Clay’s serious on this one: the ominous chord changes and splashy melodrama define the vibe.

Repetition always makes things seem a bit crazed, right? “I need you to need me,” indeed.

Rick Astley probably doesn’t mean to sound menacing, but there’s something icky behind that “never gonna give you up” promise.

Elvis Costello on Marc Ribot

When I first saw Marc with Tom it was as startling a foil role as I’ve ever seen anyone play. When I saw him on stage it reminded me of the relationship between Robbie Robertson and Bob Dylan in the mid 60s.

If you listen to the way Marc plays on Tom’s “Make it Rain” you can hear the Wilson Pickett he’s absorbed. And certainly when he first played in the studio with me on Spike [he brought lots of options to the table]. I was taking something that could have been conventionally arranged, and deliberately juxtaposing conflicting voices in the ensemble while still want it to be coherent. I just wanted it different. I’ve come to realize you can do that, it was just a matter of getting outside of the little blueprint that I started with. Marc helped me do that. 


Ribot Relaxes

He makes Tom Waits and Elvis Costello records more interesting places; he brings the beauty of Cuban grooves to a place where spirit is paramount; he freaks the fuck out with the kind of wise expressionism that brings you deeper into the squall. Marc Ribot is all about versatility. The guitarist’s approaches to the instrument are many. On the new Silent Movies (Pi), he’s all hush-hush. It’s a solo disc that follows in the footsteps of past triumphs such as Don’t Blame Me and Saints, and it’s wonderfully melodic. As Ribot reflects, his ruminations wax lyrical; almost every phrase glows with a low-key warmth. A Fahey feint here, a Blackshaw flourish there. This time his moves the melodies forward and throws some John Hurt starkness around as well. As the disc plays out, he shows you what’s on his inner silver screen.  He talks to the Voice about a few of the new tunes. Listen to Silent Movies on Rhapsody.

When Elvis Met Diana

Been organizing older work of late, and came across this 2002 chat with Diana Krall right around the time she and Elvis Costello started to fall in love. Fun to see what she has to say about that initial crossing of paths. The interview took place around the release of The Look of Love disc, and we talk about couple other things before EC hits the picture.

What are some songs that make you cry?

There are Christmas songs that make me cry. Recently I was on this plane, coming back from Hawaii, stuck on the tarmac for five hours, sitting with my boyfriend. And I’m listening to Christmas music because I’m choosing songs for my Christmas disc. And I’m listening to everything from Ella Fitzgerald to this wonderful choir from Boston’s Trinity Church, and I’m crying and he’s sitting there reading his New Yorker magazine, and he knows what I’m going through and that it’s really emotional for me. I’m thinking of my grandmother and personal stuff and people I’ve lost . . . I get choked up even thinking of it. So yeah, there are tunes that make me cry. Another one is something I’m working on from the Elvis Costello/Anne Sofie Von Otter record — I don’t want to say which one. And any Brahms. “Requiem” makes me cry.

Working with Claus Ogerman on The Look of Love, you spoke in cinematic terms to get certain moods across regarding the orchestrations. Do you see yourself becoming more theatrical in performance?

I find a character, find a story, find a visual in my head of what the story is about, and then tell it. Sometimes it’s hard to get the character. And I try not to be nostalgic. But . . . the other night on stage I spontaneously went into “As Time Goes By.” For some reason that was the mood I wanted to create. I think from years of watching actors I’ve learned a few things. [About the new disc] people ask, “Why aren’t you doing uptempo stuff?” And I say, “This isn’t my romantic comedy.” I have a very good friend in Laurence Fishburne; he just interviewed me for Interview magazine. We’ve talked about this kind of thing together. But I was inspired by skiing when I was 20 years old. So I’m always searching for knowledge. I learned from Jack Benny and the Marx Brothers. It’s about timing.

What I’m saying is that it takes more than a pleasant voice to get across “Cry Me a River.”

Know what it is? It has to be visceral. It’s a physical thing as well as an emotional thing. You can’t over-emote, you’ll get laughed out. It’s about tempo. Tempo, tempo, tempo. “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” — I love the way Frank [Sinatra] did it, but with a tempo change it can be a tortured lament. It’s fascinating. That’s why jazz works so well: you can just twist and bend it and it’s always new.

What’s the killer piece on The Look of Love?

I don’t think about songs like that. And I haven’t really listened to the record in awhile. But I was in Germany having dinner with Claus Ogerman and he kind of reminded me about “The Night We Called It a Day,” and how great it is. That particular track is something that wouldn’t happen again. It’s just a great spot that Christian [McBride] and Peter [Erskine] were at that day. It wasn’t planned. It was just one of those great takes.

You did the tribute show to Joni Mitchell, and you said that in general you didn’t really know all her stuff — just the Blue album. But then after the show, you devoured her music. What do you learn jumping into a canon like that all at once?

I’m doing it now with Elvis Costello. I saw him at the Grammys, and he was so kind in helping me get over my nervousness. He said, “I met you four years ago at the Grammys and I said you should do this tune of mine.” And I had to tell him that I hadn’t checked it out and hadn’t really checked him out. He seemed to appreciate that, and we clicked. And I think he’s the coolest guy. I bought all of his albums the next day, and I’m stuck on four of them right now. It’s great. But all of a sudden I’m up at three in the morning and I’m surrounded by Elvis records. I like being asked to do songs by other artists. I like being put in that position, taking on that challenge. Like this Patsy Cline “Crazy” that I’m doing? I’m scared out of my mind. It will either work or not, but I do like the challenge.

And the lack of previous knowledge of Elvis or Joni precludes any weird nostalgia baggage you might bring a song that you choose to interpret.

I grew up with the Eagles, Supertramp, Eric Clapton, and Steve Miller, along with the records I was practicing with. I think the idea of “Okay, we’re the jazzers over here, and we’re into Ray Brown and such” is getting old. Guys I know are just into stuff, they’re all over the place. Right now Christian McBride can’t shut up about Frank Sinatra. Me, I’m into Willie Nelson.

read the rest of the Q&A here.

The Big Payback: 10 Great Tax Songs

Yeah, JB is talking revenge, but from coast to coast “The Payback” works as a mantra for this morning’s filing frenzy. Here’s a tax day playlist. Plug ’em into Rhapsody and sharpen that pencil.  Might want to start here, first.

Biggie Smalls, “Gimme The Loot”

Elvis Costello, “Pay It Back”

The Ethiopians, “Owe Me No Pay Me”

Dan Hicks, “Where’s The Money”

Fountains of Wayne, “Strapped For Cash”

Bloonz, “Tax Time”

The Offspring, “Pay The Man”

Hank Penny, “Taxes Taxes Taxes”

Radiohead, “Dollars & Sense”

Nas, “You Owe Me”