Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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T BONE BURNETT
Twenty Twenty--The Essential T Bone Burnett
Columbia/DMZ

Roots consultant to the stars showcases songbook, proves once more how smart he is

This Texan prodigy has long enjoyed an impeccable reputation among his lofty folk-rock 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, or 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 moneychangers 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, July 2006