Monday, March 10, 2008

T Bone

I've been listening to T Bone Burnett and thinking about George W. Bush. I'm doing the former because I need to write about him for Paste. I'm doing the latter because I'm dumbfounded that GWB has vetoed a bill that would have banned waterboarding, a torture technique forbidden under the rules of the Geneva Convention -- rules we enthusiastically adhere to and support in the UN, by the way, unless or until they become a little too morally inconvenient.

At any rate, T Bone apparently thinks about George W. Bush, too. Listening to T Bone's back catalogue, which now stretches back 28 years, it's amazing to hear the consistency in both his music and his lyrics. He's always, always, always been focused on truth and the illusions we are likely to settle for instead. Here is one of his latest songs:

If we were to pass an Eleventh Commandment
In twenty years people would be shocked to learn
That there had once been only ten
And wouldn't care if there had been

It all comes down to a moment of truth
Clock ticking in a soundproof booth
From Corpus Christi to Duluth
From Ghengis Kahn to Babe Ruth

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

Every time you feel the shift
You conjure fire in a hieroglyph
When you're out for revenge dig two graves
When you run from the truth it comes in waves

We're marching up to Zion
That beautiful city of God
-- T Bone Burnett, "Every Time I Feel the Shift"


patrick said...

The music service "Pandora" has been urging T Bone Burnett on me the last several days, and I remarked to my wife how it's funny that I've mostly overlooked his songwriting when I've been so moved by records he's produced over the years. Listening to Raising Sand a few month's back sent me digging through boxes looking for my cassette copy of Joe Henry's Shuffletown, because I suddenly remembered he had produced that too, and I had to hear it again.

Maybe it's this ability of Burnett's, demonstrated in what you quote, to sort of sidle up to something and then nail it with all the ball-peen force of the most gifted protest singer, that makes him such a great producer. Nuanced without being abstruse, and as straightforward as a microphone in front of the band when that's what the music calls for.

Anonymous said...


Is your story in relation to the Tooth of Crime album, or is this a feature based on his involvement with Plant and Krauss?

Either way, I'll be looking forward to it. You're the only reason I keep a subscription to Paste.


Andy Whitman said...

Andrew, my feature story is actually a career overview/appreciation where I discuss both T Bone's songwriting and his production skills. So I mention both Plant's and Krauss's "Raising Sand" and the about-to-be-released "Tooth of Crime." But the focus is broader than either of those fine representations of his work.

paulf said...

I've been listening to T-Bone for decades, and I must protest that for all the great lyrics he wrote, you choose to quote maybe his most ham-handed song ever! :)

When I listen to my old 70s records, there is an artist who is eerily prescient about the present -- TonioK.

Listen to "The Night Fast Rodney Went Crazy" and remember it was three decades before mass school shootings. Or "One Big Happy Family:" whose brilliant lines include "..and all the king's idiot sons, never in all of their glorious battles solved anything with a gun."

He wrote about Columbine and George Bush and lots of other great stuff 30 years ago.

Adventures with Us said...

Me and my wife were married and the song "Any Time At All" was performed by a couple of our friends. Probably my favorite song of his.