New Wave New Grass?

28 May 2010

Time for some more souvenirs from Merlefest.  Here’s a video entry about Elvis Costello’s main stage set with his roots supergroup, The Sugarcanes:

Say, is it just my imagination, or is it actually the case that you can’t do these just-one-man’s-opinion video entries without sounding like Andy Rooney?  In my Excellent Online Adventure, I’ve been throwing all manner of stuff against the virtual wall to see what sticks, and so far it seems like the opinion pieces not only don’t stick; they just hang there for a second and then come crashing to the floor.  Just one man’s opinion— dang, there I go again.

In any event, hope my ugly mug didn’t get in the way of your appreciation of Elvis & Co.  The two performance clips I’ve stitched together here actually show his band cutting loose a bit more than was the case during the show as a whole, and even so, they’re pretty battened down.

While it seems odd that Costello would go through the trouble to assemble so much instrumental firepower, only to have the musicians keep their powder dry, this approach is very much in keeping with his formation as an artist.  Forgive me if you’ve heard this one before, but younger or older readers might need to be reminded that the punk and new wave scene from which Costello emerged in the mid-1970’s largely defined itself as a reaction to the excesses of the “album rock” of that era.  Back in the day, jamming was anathema to Costello and his fellow Young Turks.  If a song didn’t fit into three minutes, they just played it faster.  Although Costello shed his punk veneer long ago (that’s a very natty suit he was wearing at Merlefest), my guess is that he’s still resistant to any extended improvisation.  It doesn’t seem to jibe with his whole sense of songwriting craft.

Yer Bloviatin’ Pal— Curly

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