Elvis Costello: National Ransom

Hear Music Records

While stylistically schizophrenic, Elvis Costello's 34th album, National Ransom, can be seen as the culmination of his diverse musical influences, or a step further on his renewed journey into alt-country - which he started on 1986's King of America and revived on last year's Sacred, Profane, and Sugarcane. Regardless of one's perspective, his reputation as a prolific artist is retained with 16 unique tracks. Bringing aboard former and current members of the Sugarcanes, the Attractions, and the Confederates, Costello delivers a smorgasbord of sound. Whether touching on early 20th century jazz on "A Voice in the Dark," getting torchy with "You Hung the Moon" or twanging it up in "That's Not the Part of Him You're Leaving," Costello and producer extraordinaire T-Bone Burnett hit the mark almost every time. The Americana charts are turning into a retirement home for rock's codgers, and now Costello is riding to the top. National Ransom certainly fits the bill. (4 out of 5 stars)