Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

T-Bone Burnett: Twenty Twenty: The Essential T Bone Burnett [Columbia/DMZ/Legacy, 2006]
This Texan prodigy has long enjoyed an impeccable reputation among his colleagues: Bob Dylan tourmate, productions for everyone from Elvis Costello to Counting Crows, close personal husband of singer-songwriter Sam Phillips, O Brother, Where Art Thou? Grammy mastermind. So why hasn't he developed any kind of audience, not even a true cult? Because for both a roots guy and a Christian guy (converted Dylan, some say), he seems like a cold son of a bitch. Burnett's disdain for commercial culture may emulate Jesus and the money changers, but it also flatters the folkie puritans who dig him. The intelligence of these 40 songs is manifest, and they do stick in the mind. But they're so short on signs of soul that their spiritual quest is unlikely to engage anyone new. [Blender: 3]