T Bone Burnett

Record review

Texas Platters

T Bone Burnett

The True False Identity (Columbia/DMZ)

T Bone Burnett

Twenty Twenty: The Essential T Bone Burnett (DMZ/Columbia)

By releasing his first album of new material in 14 years simultaneously with a 2-CD retrospective of his previous work, Fort Worth native T Bone Burnett looks both forward and backward, closing one door while stepping into the future. It's unfortunate, then, that Burnett's present, The True False Identity, offers a great deal more intrigue than the bloated and slightly disfigured Twenty Twenty. Since his last studio effort, 1992's The Criminal Under My Own Hat, Burnett has busied himself producing others – Ralph Stanley, Tony Bennett, Gillian Welch – and movie soundtracks, including O Brother, Where Art Thou? The time away and working with such diverse influences has enhanced his writing skills, The True False Identity overflowing with dense textures and dexterous social and political commentary that bursts with feverish abandon. Militaristic rap "Palestine Texas"; a brutally raw dissection of the laws of God and of man in "Blinded by the Darkness"; and the ironic, sweet bounce of "I'm Going on a Long Journey Never to Return" offer three of many sides of present day Americana. Although Twenty Twenty, so named because of the number of tracks on each disc, is a fair overview of Burnett's career and even offers a few new tracks, it's difficult to recommend. First there are the new versions of tunes from 1983's Proof Through the Night, perhaps his strongest work. Still unavailable on CD, they're represented here by seven cuts, five of which have be rearranged in some way through remixing, new overdubs, new vocals, and at least in one case different lyrics. Otherwise, at more than 21Ú2 hours of music, it's a little dense for beginners. A single disc of gems, including "The People's Limousine," his duet with Elvis Costello; and the outstanding cover of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," would have been more warmly welcomed.

(True False Identity) ***.5

(Essential) **

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