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A restless musical chameleon who’s worked in many genres, Elvis Costello bounces from rock to roots music on National Ransom, an ambitious outing featuring his back-up bands the Imposters and the Sugarcanes.
Costello summons up memories of his angry young man persona on the title track as he rails about Wall Street’s rip-off of the middle class, with Steve Nieve adding piercing Vox Organ riffs. But “Slow Drag With Josephine” and “Jimmie Standing in the Rain” provide striking contrast with far gentler acoustic arrangements and a folk-country-bluegrass feel.
Recorded quickly in Nashville and Los Angeles and beautifully produced by T-Bone Burnett, who worked with Elvis on the King of America and Spike albums, National Ransom includes nicely utilized guests Leon Russell, Vince Gill, Marc Ribot and Buddy Miller. Loaded with complex lyrics and eclectic material, the album requires several listens before all the songs come fully into focus. But rest assured that the man born Declan MacManus still has a lot to say some 33 years after he began “Watching the Detectives.” — Martin Bandyke, Detroit Free Press