Elvis Costello, "National Ransom"

Album Review
4

If Elvis Costello's predilection for album-to-album change has been dizzying during the past 30-plus years, his latest release, "National Ransom," truncates that whirlwind across 16 tracks. Returning to "King of America" and "Secret, Profane & Sugarcane" partner T Bone Burnett, Costello cuts a wide swath with an equally broad array of players, from his bands (the Imposters, the Sugarcanes) to special guests like Leon Russell, who solos on the shuffling rocker "My Lovely Jezebel," and Vince Gill on the roots hybrid "Dr. Watson, I Presume." Assigning a time and place to each song, from the early 20th century to present day, Costello and company kick hard on the Wall Street-skewering title track, "Five Small Words" and "The Spell That You Cast." He slides into country for "A Slow Drag With Josephine" and "I Lost You," and touches on jazz with "You Hung the Moon" and the Joni Mitchell-styled "One Bell Ringing." Elsewhere, Costello takes a vaudeville turn on the emotive album closer "A Voice in the Dark." It's a lot to take in, but his aim is true as always.

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