National Ransom

National Ransom

by Elvis Costello


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Elvis Costello has worn willful eclecticism as a badge of honor for so long that his decision to retain the same essential support and sound for 2010's National Ransom as he did for its 2009 predecessor Secret, Profane & Sugarcane means something. Building upon a foundation instead of beginning another journey suggests that he knows he has a fruitful collaboration with producer T-Bone Burnett and a good band with the Sugarcanes, who are now melded with the Imposters to give this Americana -- equal parts roots-rock, country, and pre-war balladry -- some serious kick. Secret, Profane and National Ransom share some superficial sonic characteristics, but the former played as a clearinghouse of odds and ends, while National Ransom is a purposeful album, its themes elegantly meshing together and carrying considerable momentum. Costello deliberately stays in familiar territory, often recalling his first Burnett-produced record, King of America, but he's not churning out familiar songs -- complacency is anathema to him, of course -- he's using the familiar sounds to provide context for the present. In a conceit that's a shade too clever, he's presented a year where each song takes place, but that's a bit of misdirection, too, because modern-day tales sound ancient and vice-versa, not unlike Dylan's latter-day albums. Costello shares a similar love of Tin Pan Alley songcraft as Dylan, but he favors bluegrass to blues and betrays a little bit of artful affectation when he writes a '20s shuffle like "A Slow Drag with Josephine" or a ballad like "You Hung the Moon," but that's part of his charm: a Costello album without such punning tricks is a bit of a drag. And while National Ransom doesn't rage like This Year's Model, it does tap into that same sense of rage on its title track, and Costello gives guitarist Marc Ribot plenty of room to strangle out notes, giving this a far less stuffy feel than Secret, Profane & Sugarcane. Ribot's manic fretwork ties this to Costello's dense turn-of-the-'90s albums for Warner, so the album winds up with trace echoes of all eras of Costello, but that's only a reflection of how National Ransom is a masterwork in the traditional sense: he's summoned all his skills to deliver an album that summarizes his world view.

Product Details

Release Date: 11/02/2010
Label: Hear Music
UPC: 0888072321427
catalogNumber: 32142
Rank: 60821

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Elvis Costello   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Bass Guitar,Vocals,Track Performer,farfisa organ,Fender Telecaster,Vocal Harmony
Jerry Douglas   Dobro,Lap Steel Guitar
Jim Lauderdale   Vocal Harmony
Leon Russell   Piano
Marc Ribot   Acoustic Guitar,Banjo,Electric Guitar
Bruce Dukov   Violin,Concert Master
Steve Nieve   Piano,Celeste,Vox Continental,Hammond B3
Mike Compton   Mandolin,Vocal Harmony
Dennis Crouch   Double Bass
Stuart Duncan   Fiddle,Violin,Electric Violin,Electric Viola
Vince Gill   Vocal Harmony
Darrell Leonard   Trumpet,Flugelhorn,Bass Trumpet
Buddy Miller   Guitar (Electric Baritone),Vocal Harmony
Ira Nepus   Trombone
Tom Peterson   Bass Clarinet,Alto Flute,Baritone Saxophone
Maurice Spears   Bass Trombone
Pete Thomas   Percussion,Drums
Mike Piersante   Shaker
Jeff Taylor   Piano,Accordion,Low Whistle
Caroline Campbell   Violin
George Bohanon   Trombone,Baritone Horn
Andrew Duckles   Viola
Neel Hammond   Violin
Lucia Micarelli   Violin
Radu Pieptea   Violin
Dave Eggar   Cello
Matthew Funes   Viola
Tim Lauderdale   Vocal Harmony

Technical Credits

Jim Lauderdale   Composer
Elvis Costello   Arranger,Composer,Horn Arrangements,String Arrangements,Whistle
Leon Russell   Composer
Jill Dell'Abate   String Contractor
T Bone Burnett   Composer,Producer
Darrell Leonard   Horn Arrangements
Drew Bollman   Engineer
Mike Piersante   Engineer
Joey Turner   Engineer
Paul Ackling   Guitar Techician
Jason Wormer   Engineer
Curtis Laur   Guitar Techician
Kyle Ford   Engineer
Vanessa Parr   Engineer
Darrell Gilmour   Management
Larissa Collins   Art Direction
Tony Millionaire   Illustrations
Steve Macklam   Management
Sam Feldman   Management

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National Ransom 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
CRatliff More than 1 year ago
Yes, it's another great album from Elvis Costello. And to a certain extent, that's a problem for Costello, because in some quarters, there is fatigue associated with an artist who writes TOO many good songs and records TOO many great albums. Here's the thing: almost every Costello record since the early 1980s has been hailed by SOMEBODY as a "return to form." The thing is, he's never really had a dry spell that everybody agreed on. While there is nearly unanimous praise for his first trio of albums in the late 70s, almost each record he's put out in the past three decades since has gotten a ton of people hailing it as a masterpiece (or a comeback), while a smattering of others have expressed disappointment or exasperation with yet another album in the always-expanding canon of Elvis Costello recordings. If Bob Dylan or Paul McCartney were to write and record an album of 16 songs as good as those featured on NATIONAL RANSOM, we'd be talking Album Of The Year, no question. But with Costello, the headline is: ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER GREAT ALBUM, followed by the complaint: "too many good songs" or even "too clever." Perhaps the solution would be for Costello to write some truly terrible songs and get the hackiest pop producer he can find to ruin them. Repeat that trick a few times and the stage would be set for an album like NATIONAL RANSOM to receive the kind of adoring reception it actually deserves. I have no doubt that people will stil be "discovering" this album twenty years from now. Many will wonder why it wasn't more beloved in 2010, by more listeners. Buy it today, and be there to tell them, "well, I was one of the lucky ones. I got there FIRST..."
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