CAT # HRM-32142-25
1. National Ransom 4:06 2. Jimmie Standing In The Rain 4:15 3. Stations Of The Cross 4:58 4. A Slow Drag With Josephine 2:42 5. Five Small Words 4:44 6. Church Underground 5:01 7. You Hung The Moon 3:54 8. Bullets For The New-Born King 3:34 9. I Lost You 2:55 10. Dr. Watson, I Presume 3:40 11. One Bell Ringing 3:37 12. The Spell That You Cast 2:31 13. That's Not The Part Of Him You're Leaving 4:42 14. My Lovely Jezebel 2:31 15. All These Strangers 5:52 16. A Voice In The Dark 3:34
“Turn up the music just to turn it down. The trivial secrets buried with the profound"
Despite the presence of lap-steel, mandolin, dobro and fiddle throughout the record, the music probably owes more to the rhythms and harmonies of R&B or even Gospel music than to Bluegrass. This continues on “That’s Not The Part Of Him You’re Leaving”, which is pitched somewhere on the road between Nashville and Memphis and finds the entire Sugarcanes are joined by Pete Thomas and Steve Nieve on Hammond Organ and “The Spell That You Cast”, where Costello’s own Gibson tenor guitar trades off in the solo with Mike Compton’s mandolin on a beat combo tune.
All of these songs are newly composed by Costello with the exception of “I Lost You”, co-written with Jim Lauderdale and “All These Strangers”, for which Costello and T Bone Burnett collaborated on the lyrics. Costello and Burnett also provide the lyrics for, “My Lovely Jezebel”, a Leon Russell rock and roll tune and he leads a Thomas/Crouch/Ribot combo from the piano. Vince Gill adds a beautiful vocal harmony part to the chorus of a string-band tune, “Dr. Watson, I Presume”, on which the Sugarcanes full instrumental line-up are heard together with Pete Thomas, Marc Ribot and the baritone guitar of Buddy Miller, who also sings on the title cut.
The ballad accompaniments range from a single acoustic guitar and double bass on “Bullets For The New-Born King” - a song in the voice of a regretful assassin - to a hushed 21-piece ensemble for, “You Hung The Moon" - a song about a séance held in 1919 as a family struggle with the loss of a soldier executed for desertion in the First World War.
“Lower the hood on his last lament, dash him down on the cold cement”
“One Bell Ringing”, in which a man has dreams of his own interrogation and demise, is set in 2007. The song hears Costello’s finger-picked guitar and Dennis Crouch’s double bass augmented by the singer’s own arrangement for bass trumpet, alto flute and bass clarinet.
Asked if all the songs and their characters were set in specific times and places, Costello said, “Yes but I'd be happy if you imagine them any time you want”.
National Ransom was recorded in a total of eleven days at Sound Emporium, Nashville and Village Recorders, Los Angeles and engineered and mixed by Michael Piersante at Electromagetic, Los Angeles. National Ransom was produced by T Bone Burnett.
Tony Millionaire once again provides the ink illustration for the cover.
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