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.