Review: Elvis Costello, ‘National Ransom’

Review: Elvis Costello, ‘National Ransom’: Aidin Vaziri | All those hours spent hanging around backstage at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival apparently reignited Elvis Costello’s love of the roots music he delved into with 1986’s “King of America.” Working once again with producer T Bone Burnett, he’s come up with “National Ransom” – the electric follow-up to last year’s acoustic-based “Secret, Profane & Sugarcane” – and it’s a true throwback. Recorded in just 11 days between Los Angeles and Nashville with guests such as Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller and Leon Russell, the album barrels forward with spiteful melodies and foot-stomping punk rhythms on highlights such as “Five Small Words” and “The Spell That You Cast.” Throughout it all, the 56-year-old British singer-songwriter sounds as if he’s having a blast, whether spitting out political polemics or taking time out for a quiet waltz on the lovely “That’s Not the Part of Him You’re Leaving.” On the clanging title track, Costello even reaches back for some of his vintage Thatcher-era angst: “They’re running wild/ Just like some childish tantrum/ Meanwhile we’re working every day/ Paying off the national ransom.” After the diversions of the past few years – from the classical scores to the talk show stint – it’s nice to see the return of Angry Elvis.

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