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The True False Identity

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Album Review

As a musician and songwriter, T-Bone Burnett often manages the canny feat of seeming direct and elusive at the same time; there's an emotional power and clarity in his best music that's bracing, passionate, and scrupulously honest, but he's also capable of using his artifice to throw his messages in several directions at once, and it's sometimes difficult to tell just what his intended target is supposed to be (which is part of what makes his work fascinating in the first place). Lately, Burnett's star has risen considerably as a producer, having coordinated the multi-platinum soundtrack albums for O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Walk the Line as well as breakthrough projects for Counting Crows and the Wallflowers, and Burnett's estimable skills in the studio are the best thing about The True False Identity, his first album since The Criminal Under My Own Hat in 1992. Three drummers are credited in the liner notes (Carla Azar, Jay Bellerose, and Jim Keltner), and it often seems as if all three are playing at once, as a precisely arranged clatter runs throughout these 12 songs, with Dennis Crouch's double bass keeping the rhythms locked in and Marc Ribot's superb guitar work carrying the brunt of the melody and conjuring the aural atmosphere (enough so that he could probably demand co-star billing if he were of a mind). Musically, The True False Identity is fascinating and challenging stuff, and the album is full of the sort of clever wordplay one would expect from Burnett, although a number of the songs cover themes — still relevant themes, it should be emphasized — that he's written about more effectively in the past (especially "Blinded by the Darkness" and "Hollywood Mecca of the Movies"). The writing on The True False Identity sometimes sounds like slogans rather than carefully thought-out verse — although they're often great slogans ("If sin were dealt with by the laws of man, everybody would be in jail," "Cowboy with no cattle, warrior with no war/They don't make imposters like John Wayne anymore," "When you're out for revenge, dig two graves"). Burnett can do better, but from nearly anyone else, The True False Identity would be a striking and adventurous work.


Born: January 14, 1948 in St. Louis, MO

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Despite critical acclaim as a performer, the rootsy singer/songwriter T-Bone Burnett earned his greatest renown as a producer, helming recording sessions for acts ranging from Roy Orbison and Elvis Costello to Counting Crows and Sam Phillips. Born Joseph Henry Burnett on January 14, 1948, in St. Louis, Missouri, he grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, soaking in the area's indigenous blend of blues, R&B, and Tex-Mex sounds. Instead of attending college, he opted to open his own Fort Worth recording studio,...
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The True False Identity, T Bone Burnett
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