Given his recent successes as a top-flight producer, it is easy to overlook that 58-year-old T Bone Burnett had a vital, yet under-the-covers recording career of his own.

Given his recent successes as a top-flight producer, it is easy to overlook that 58-year-old T Bone Burnett had a vital, yet under-the-covers recording career of his own -- as a member of the Alpha Band, which grew from the group that backed Bob Dylan in the Rolling Thunder Review, and as a solo singer/songwriter/guitarist.

Burnett has consistently put his solo career on hold while inspiring, facilitating and mentoring others, but the songster has finally won out. On May 16, DMZ/Columbia will release his first album in 14 years, "The True False Identity." The same day, DMZ/Columbia/Legacy will deliver the two-CD, 30-year retrospective of his career, "Twenty Twenty: The Essential T Bone Burnett."

"I've been busy," Burnett tells Billboard when asked what took so long. "But I'm taking the year off to write songs and play shows. I've been waiting to do this for a long time. I started writing here and there and wanted to get a group of songs together that would have a resonance. I wanted to talk about now, the period of time I'm living in."

"This is a comedy record," he continues. "All the songs are comedies. I hope they resonate that way. I don't know if they're funny because that's an essential ingredient to comedy. If they're not funny, well, I don't know ... we'll see."

For the first time in 20 years, Burnett will hit the road in support of the project, backed by drummer Jim Keltner, guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist Dennis Crouch and keyboardist Keefus Ciancia. "It feels like heaven to get on a bus like Buddy Rich or Count Basie," he says. "You create your own bubble and move around the country in your own reality. It's a completely irresponsible place to be. We'll play 10-15 good-sounding rooms on the first stage of the tour. By then, who knows, I might say I can't wait to work on another movie."