The True False Identity

T-Bone Burnett

Columbia, 2006

REVIEW BY: Shane M. Liebler


T-Bone Burnett is one of those names you know you should know from somewhere on some album in some time. In the case of The True False Identity, you may have known and forgot; it's T-Bone's first offering as a singer/songwriter since 1992.

Burnett has kept plenty busy during his hiatus, snagging four Grammies for his work composing and arranging the massively successful O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack back in 2002. He produced exceptional LPs for the likes of Elvis Costello, Counting Crows, The Wallflowers and young rootsy crooner Gillian Welch in the 90s.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Yeah, now you know you knew him from somewhere. T-Bone also played guitar on Bob Dylan's legendary Rolling Thunder Revue of the mid-1970s before founding the Alpha Band with some tour mates. True False actually strikes a similarity to Dylan's late-career recorded-in-a-tin-can classic Time Out Of Mind. It's dripping with multi-layered, watery stomps and stream-of-consciousness stanzas that evoke 1950s AM radio nostalgia inspired by Highway 61.

The lyrics won't change any lives, though: "If I could only see through glass / I would know what has come to pass / I wouldn't hurry, but I'd get there fast / What's last is first, what's first is last" Burnett recites on "Every Time I Feel The Shift." There's more fun with clichés on the opening verse of "Fear Country:" "The cat's out of the bag and it ain't going back / Your plan has hit a snag, it has fallen off the track."

But, the listener is rewarded with superior musicianship and carefully produced backing tracks throughout.

True False is a spiritual volume, with a soul that emerges in choral refrains and foot-stomping rhythms held in place by jug band aesthetics. There's plenty of electricity too, though, best represented in the slow faux-reggae crawl of opener "Zombieland," the riffy sludge of "Blinded By The Darkness," or the funky, Beck-like intro to "Palestine, Texas."

An acoustic-leaning intermission at the halfway point blends the folky "I'm Going On A Long Journey Never To Return," with the skilled picking behind "A Poem Of The Evening: Hollywood, Mecca Of The Movies" rather nicely. The rootsy stroll of "There Would Be Hell To Pay" and Orbinson-esque pop of "Baby Don't Say You Love Me" round out the album's better tunes.

What's truly remarkable about True False is the large and varied influences behind the sound and Burnett's skillfully cohesive presentation. It ranks high in the "first album in 10+ years" category and seems a good introduction to Burnett's work on both sides of the studio glass.

Rating: B-

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© 2006 Shane M. Liebler and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia, and is used for informational purposes only.