Has Elvis Costello “gone country”?
Not quite. But there’s definitely a twang in his sound these days.
His current album, “Secret, Profane & Sugarcane,” explores American roots music — country, folk and bluegrass — with a deep respect for old-time styles.
Costello and his touring band, the Sugarcanes, a blue-ribbon, six-member group of Nashville studio musicians featured on the new album, played nearly 30 songs in a spirited concert Sunday night at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville. The Sugarcanes featured Jim Lauderdale, Jerry Douglas, Mike Compton, Stuart Duncan, Dennis Crouch and Jeff Taylor.
Opening were the delightful Lovell Sisters, a rootsy band featuring sisters Rebecca, Megan and Jessica. The band’s profile has been growing with appearances at the Bonnaroo and Telluride festivals, as well as the Grand Ole Opry. Among the standouts in the set were Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and a remarkably rootsy “C# Blues (People, People, People)” by Hendrix.
A capacity crowd greeted Costello and his band warmly, though a slight chill in the air after nightfall had concertgoers reaching for their blankets.
The show introduced a lot of new songs from “Secret, Profane & Sugarcane,” Costello’s highest-charting album in years. Among them were the raucous “Down Among the Wine and Spirits” as well as “Complicated Shadows” and “Sulphur to Sugarcane.” And “new” didn’t just mean songs from the current album. Costello and his band played two unreleased tunes, “Condemned Man” and the uptempo “Five Small Words,” that hold a lot of promise.
Classic cover songs included the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil,” Merle Haggard’s “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down” and the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale” and Junior Parker’s “Mystery Train,” which opened the show. Costello’s own classic tunes, such as “Everyday I Write the Book” and “Alison,” benefitted from fresh arrangements that helped them blend with the new material.
Costello peppered his show with amusing stories, such as sharing a birthday with Billy Ray Cyrus, Sean Connery and Ivan the Terrible; and once being billed at London’s Royal Albert Hall as “the aging punk rocker Elvis Costello.”
The Chateau concert series continues Aug. 29 and 30 with concerts by Costello’s wife, jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall.