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T-Bone Burnett (the misc. thread)

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T-Bone Burnett shows up in so many places, and has so much influence on the work of many A&F favorites, I think he deserves a thread of his own that isn't tied to any particular solo album he's released.

Today, The A.V. Club has a new interview with the living legend.

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He makes bands like Counting Crows the Wallflowers make the best record they'll ever make. Even when he's only thanked in the credits, as in BRMC's "Howl," the project turns out to be the band's best.

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He makes bands like Counting Crows the Wallflowers make the best record they'll ever make. Even when he's only thanked in the credits, as in BRMC's "Howl," the project turns out to be the band's best.

Not always. Gillian Welch, dude. Revelator is the masterpiece.

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Funny that this thread would pop up today, as I've been kicking around the idea of a similar thread for a little while now; ever since hearing the new Jakob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Robert Randolph albums within a two-week span, I've been pondering a blog post counting down my ten favorite T-Bone productions-- something similar to what I did with this Joe Henry post last year.

So, T-Bone fans... what, in your opinion, are his greatest hits as a producer? And his greatest misses?

Some of my favorites:

- Basically all of his Sam Phillips albums, but especially Martinis, Fan Dance, and Boot/Shoe.

- B.B. King, One Kind Favor

- The new Robert Randolph, and, to a lesser extent, the Jakob Dylan

- Yeah, okay... Raising Sand

Some that I'm not so crazy about:

- The new Willie

- Elvis Costello, Spike

- Cassandra Wilson, Thunderbird

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I love his version of Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend.

The only concert I have ever paid a scalper for was Tom Waits, at the Wiltern in LA, circa Frank's Wild Years. I walked in right in front of T-Bone. The only regret I have is that I didn't tell Mr. Burnett how much I liked his work.

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So, T-Bone fans... what, in your opinion, are his greatest hits as a producer? And his greatest misses?

Favorites

BoDeans - Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams

Los Lobos - How Will The Wolf Survive?

Peter Case - Peter Case

Gillian Welch - Hell Among The Yearlings

Sam Phillips - Martinis and Bikinis

Least Favorite

Brandi Carlile - The Story

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Funny that this thread would pop up today, as I've been kicking around the idea of a similar thread for a little while now; ever since hearing the new Jakob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Robert Randolph albums within a two-week span, I've been pondering a blog post counting down my ten favorite T-Bone productions-- something similar to what I did with this Joe Henry post last year.

So, T-Bone fans... what, in your opinion, are his greatest hits as a producer? And his greatest misses?

Some of my favorites:

- Basically all of his Sam Phillips albums, but especially Martinis, Fan Dance, and Boot/Shoe.

- B.B. King, One Kind Favor

- The new Robert Randolph, and, to a lesser extent, the Jakob Dylan

- Yeah, okay... Raising Sand

Some that I'm not so crazy about:

- The new Willie

- Elvis Costello, Spike

- Cassandra Wilson, Thunderbird

Favorites

Elvis Costello -- King of America

Los Lobos -- How Will the Wolf Survive?

Peter Case -- Peter Case

Sam Phillips -- Martinis and Bikinis

Joe Henry -- Shuffletown

Counting Crows -- August and Everything After

O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack

Least Favorites

Pretty much everything he's done in the past ten years, but particularly Robert Plant's and Alison Krauss's Raising Sand

I may be alone in this, but I prefer T-Bone the performer/recording artist to T-Bone the producer. I love the early Alpha Band albums. I love Truth Decay, Trap Door, and Proof Through the Night. The self-titled album is hit-and-miss, but some of the songs there, particularly "River of Love," pretty much define what music written from a Christian worldview should sound like. The guy basically wrote my life.

One of my favorite concerts ever was seeing T-Bone and The Alpha Band (with opening act Mark Heard) at a delicatessen in Mansfield, Ohio in the late '70s. Yes, a deli. The juxtaposition of that big, tall Texan singing his cryptic songs as the waitresses delivered Reuben sandwiches is a memory I will always cherish.

Edited by Andy Whitman

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Based on its review in Harvest Rock Syndicate, I bought T-Bone's CRIMINAL UNDER MY OWN HAT on tape when I was 15 and mostly listening to Nirvana and King's X.

It wasn't as easy to hear new music back then, so if I went to the trouble to buy a new album from a previously unheard artist, I made sure to squeeze everything out of it that I could. Sometimes it was homework, but with Burnett it was easy. That album still resonates with me today as much as any of my other favorites.

He was a personal favorite for me at an age when years pass by like decades do now, so I was shocked to see him as the producer of a popular band like Counting Crows a few years later. This speaks volumes about both my lack of knowledge at the time and what life was like before wikipedia et al.

I could ramble further, but I do want to share these Burnett anecdontes:

1. I was randomly assigned a roommate my freshman year of college who is the world's biggest Costello fan. It was crazy to explore each others' music collection in 1995 and have him say that he didn't like Burnett because he "was responsible for Costello's weakest albums."

2. A colleague of mine won some kind of radio competition in the 80s that had a prize of a home concert from Burnett. He admits that he was pretty tanked up on the night of the show, but swears that the high point included a joke from T-Bone with a punchline involving anal sex.

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mrmando and I spent several hours with T-Bone when he visited Seattle for the Criminal Under My Own Hat tour. We were just college kids. mrmando was interviewing him for a magazine and graciously invited me along.

Off the top of my head, here are my favorites:

The Turning - Leslie Phillips

Martinis and Bikinis - Sam Phillips

Fan Dance - Sam Phillips

The Criminal Under My Own Hat - T-Bone Burnett

Counting Crows -- August and Everything After

Gillian Welch - Revival

O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack

Nothing But a Burning Light - Bruce Cockburn

Mystery Girl - Roy Orbison

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I think his musical direction of Roy Orbison's Black and White Night was great. My favorite moments are James Burton schooling Springsteen, and the keyboard solo by Tom Waits that leaves almost everybody on stage with a WTF expression.

He produced Leo Kottke's Time Step and I liked that album a lot.

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mrmando and I spent several hours with T-Bone when he visited Seattle for the Criminal Under My Own Hat tour. We were just college kids. mrmando was interviewing him for a magazine and graciously invited me along.

This does me a little too much credit. More like, Jeffrey begged for an invitation, and for once in my life I had the generous good sense to say yes.

It was a day I'll never forget. It was, in fact, Aug. 16, 1992. Anyone know the particular significance of that date?

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mrmando wrote:

: It was a day I'll never forget. It was, in fact, Aug. 16, 1992. Anyone know the particular significance of that date?

Um... "In response to an appeal by President Fernando Collor de Mello to wear green and yellow as a way to show support for him, thousands of Brazilians take to the streets dressed in black"?

Oh, wait.

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Autolux -- Future Perfect

Don't know how much of 'Burnett' I can hear in the sound, but man does it sound good.

Edited by KShaw

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mrmando wrote:

: It was a day I'll never forget. It was, in fact, Aug. 16, 1992. Anyone know the particular significance of that date?

Um... "In response to an appeal by President Fernando Collor de Mello to wear green and yellow as a way to show support for him, thousands of Brazilians take to the streets dressed in black"?

Oh, wait.

Narrowing it down just a tad, I'm going with the day Mark Heard died.

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This does me a little too much credit. More like, Jeffrey begged for an invitation, and for once in my life I had the generous good sense to say yes.

Well yeah, that works too. :) And you wrote the article that came out of that conversation. Which was quite a rollercoaster of a conversation. I remember just kind of nodding and smiling, starstruck, while T-Bone talked and talked.

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This thread is probably the best place to make note that T-Bone has already had a busy year-- with the new Nelson and Dylan albums-- but he's just getting started. On the way are a new one for Elvis Costello, a new one for Mellencamp, the Robert Randolph album I've been raving about, an album for Greg Allman, a collaboration with Elton John and Leon Russell, an album for Steve Earle, and soundtracks for the movie Ghost Brothers of Darkland County and the TV show Tough Trade! (And that's to say nothing of the scrapped Grace Potter sessions!)

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Hm. What would go on a best-of package that isn't already on "Twenty Twenty"?

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T-Bone says that, of all the blights science has inflicted on us, the MP3 is one of the worst.

Any technology that allows me to carry around 2,700 albums in my pocket, which I'm doing today, isn't all bad. I understand T-Bone's point, and I agree with him as far as the sonic qualities of MP3 files. But look, I've got 2,700 albums in my pocket; about 30,000 songs. Surely that should count for something, no?

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Ah, T-Bone, the prince of overstatement.

Er, that is, T-Bone, the High King of the Realm, Supreme Authority, Executive Overlord, Royal Majestic Chief of the Lone Islands, and Exalted Emperor Beyond the Sea of overstatement.

Then he introduced the Secret Sisters, the sibling duo from Alabama he’s taken under his wing, and who appear tonight at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. They sang just two numbers, one from their recently released debut album and a new one, “Sweet Hawaiian Chimes,” that may turn up in a film Burnett is working on with screenwriter and director Callie Khouri about bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe.

How the hell one works a new song about Hawaii into a Bill Monroe biopic is beyond me, but I suppose that if anyone could do it, T-Bone could.

Edited by mrmando

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