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Burnett, T Bone

T Bone Burnett

Music producer, singer, songwriter

As well known for his production of other artists as for his own pop and folk-inflected albums, T Bone Burnett has been a familiar figure on the rock scene since the late 1960s, when he first left his Texas hometown for Los Angeles. His abilities as a producer, singer, songwriter, and studio musician, combined with his wide-ranging tastes, have brought him into contact with a broad spectrum of musicians. His vast production credits include albums by Elvis Costello, Delbert McClinton, Maria Muldaur, Leo Kottke, Los Lobos, Marshall Crenshaw, Peter Case, Roy Orbison, the BoDeans, Bruce Cockburn, Counting Crows, and his wife, Leslie "Sam" Phillips. Burnett has often contributed instrumental and writing support when he produces, and he has also performed on many other recordings, including those of Tonio K. and Marti Jones, and has cowritten songs with such artists as Costello and U2's Bono. In the early 2000s he made a star of septuagenarian bluegrass veteran Ralph Stanley and a multi-platinum smash out of old-time musical styles on the soundtrack of the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? After 40 years in the music business his career still appears to be on the upswing.

Burnett is notable for his intense commitment to making thoughtful, high-quality, socially conscious music. He is outspoken on the subject of politics and frequently critical of the recording industry, and he and his wife—unlike many of his colleagues in the music business—are practicing Christians. Impatient when he finds himself pegged as a "Christian rocker," Burnett has insisted that labelling him in that way misses the point. In a Rolling Stone interview he told Steve Pond, "Morality is a moment-to-moment process of making decisions. It is not a specifically Christian thing. The moral point of view in my songs is something I've always had, not something that comes with my religion."

Grew Up Around Music

Burnett has always balanced his own recording career with his work as a producer and band member for other acts. Born in 1948 in St. Louis, Missouri, Burnett grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, where he played in local bands, frequented blues bars, and was a member of a performance group called Los Creativos. He picked up the nickname "T Bone" at the age of five. After finishing high school he tried college for a while, but soon quit in order to establish a small recording studio. By the end of the 1960s Burnett had left Texas and was headed for Hollywood. There he began playing with Delaney and Bonnie, produced a record for Delbert and Glen, and in 1972 released his first solo album, B-52 Band & the Fabulous Skylarks, under the name J. Henry Burnett.

Burnett wasn't ready to tour in order to promote the album. As passionate as he was about making music, live performance did not come naturally to him. Later he explained to George Kalogerakis in Rolling Stonethat "I never had any ambition to be a famous performer. I started out being a record producer…. I've just poked around in this and that a bit." The introspective Burnett concluded, "Probably a lot of that's fear." In 1975, however, after he moved to New York City and spent some time on the Greenwich Village club circuit, Burnett joined Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue. After the tour, Burnett founded the Alpha Band with Revue veterans David Mansfield and Steven Soles. They recorded three albums before disbanding in 1978, and Mansfield and Soles appeared on Burnett's 1980 Truth Decay release.

Burnett made his film debut in Renaldo & Clara, a 1976 documentary by Sam Shepard about the Rolling Thunder experience; in 1980 Burnett appeared in Francis Ford Coppola's colossal flop Heaven's Gate. Around this time Burnett returned to the Episcopalian faith he had left behind in Texas; it was a period when many of his Rolling Thunder bandmates, including Dylan, were discovering Christianity.

Collaborations With Costello

Burnett opened for Elvis Costello on tour in 1984, and the two began working together. They briefly performed as the Coward Brothers, a kind of spoof on the 1950s pop vocal duo the Everly Brothers, and even made a single, "The People's Limousine." Burnett went on to produce two albums for Costello, King of America and Spike.

Burnett worked on Roy Orbison's "comeback" album, the 1989 Mystery Girl, along with other Orbison fans such as Elvis Costello, Bono, George Harrison, and Tom Petty, and acted as musical director for an Orbison Cinemax concert special, A Black and White Night. Around this time Burnett also produced work by Leo Kottke, Marshall Crenshaw, and Peter Case, the debut album of the BoDeans, and three records for Los Lobos that catapulted them onto the charts.

Costello described Burnett's production style as thoughtful and patient. Discussing the making of King of America, Costello told Musician that "'Generosity' is a word that flew around a lot. It's something to do with T Bone's influence." Sam Llanas of the BoDeans commented in Billboard that Burnett "can be brutally frank without being brutal; he would make suggestions that clarified the whole thing." Evaluating his own skills in an interview with Dan Ouellette of Acoustic Guitar, Burnett reflected on his commitment to the music itself: "My goal as a producer is to try to help the song live and, hopefully, not simply live, but live passionately or defiantly or gloriously or humbly or honestly."

Burnett's solo career, meanwhile, was developing more slowly. In a pattern that would characterize his work, his first two releases after the breakup of the Alpha Band, 1980's Truth Decay and the 1982 EP Trap Door, were received enthusiastically by critics but did not sell well. Burnett's lyrics wrestled with everyday ethics, focusing on personal hypocrisy, daily compromise, and faithless love, but also on the possibility of overcoming despair.

For the Record …

Born John Henry Burnett on January 18, 1948, in St. Louis, MO; raised in Fort Worth, TX; married second wife, Leslie "Sam" Philips, late 1980 two daughters (first marriage).

Began playing with and producing bands, 1960s; moved to Los Angeles, early 1970s; made first solo album, The B-52 Band & the Fabulous Skylarks (under name J. Henry Burnett), 1972; produced recordings by Delbert and Glen, among others; toured with Delaney and Bonnie and with Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue, 1975; formed Alpha Band with Rolling Thunder veterans Steven Soles and David Mansfield and recorded three albums between 1976 and 1978; appeared in films Renaldo & Clara, 1976, and Heaven's Gate, 1980; began making solo albums as T Bone Burnett, starting with Truth Decay, 1980; toured with Richard Thompson and Elvis Costello, 1984; with Costello, as the Coward Brothers, cut single "The People's Limousine," 1985; produced recordings by numerous artists, including Leo Kottke, Los Lobos, Bruce Cockburn, Roy Orbison, Marshall Crenshaw, Elvis Costello, the BoDeans, Counting Crows, Natalie Merchant, Sam Phillips, and Ralph Stanley; produced soundtrack for films O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002), and Cold Mountain, 2003; released album The True False Identity, 2006.

Awards: Rolling Stone Critics' Poll, named Songwriter of the Year, 1983; four Grammy Awards for O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, 2001.

Addresses: Record company—Sony/BMG, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022. Website—T Bone Burnett Official Website: http://www.tboneburnett.com.

In a review in Rolling Stone Ken Tucker wrote that Truth Decay "suggests that T Bone Burnett is the best singer-songwriter in the country right now. No one this year will make music more forthright, more tender, more scrupulously free of cheap irony and trumped-up passion." Yet despite consistently glowing, appreciative reviews, Burnett never gathered a large following.

Burnett has appeared to take his relative lack of popular success in stride. Ouellette asked Burnett if he ever doubted his abilities. Burnett answered, "Sure, but it's only been during periods when I've believed in and conformed to the competitive aspect of the music business…. I would think I wasn't very good because I wasn't selling enough records." Despite discouraging sales figures, Burnett continued to make records that were more artistic than commercial, and received first-rate studio support for his projects; Ry Cooder and Richard Thompson played on the 1983 Proof Through the Night, for example, and Billy Swan and Los Lobos's David Hidalgo both appeared on T Bone Burnett.

Warner Brothers dropped Burnett in 1984 after two critically acclaimed but poor-selling records. Burnett, however, went on to release another EP, Behind the Trap Door, in England shortly thereafter. In 1986 he made the well-received T Bone Burnett on Dot, an MCA label. That album, with its country influence and relatively spare sound, has been regarded by some critics as Burnett's best. Throughout the 1980s Burnett experimented with a range of sounds, from the rockabilly flavor of Truth Decay and simple song-centered Trap Door to the more heavily produced Proof Through the Night. His last album of the decade, 1988's The Talking Animals, was among his most ornate and ranks among Burnett's least favorite.

Tired out by a long busy spate of producing and recording, Burnett took some time off after The Talking Animals. Around 1986 he was introduced to a singer and songwriter named Leslie Phillips, who had made several successful records in the early 1980s for the Christian record label Word and wanted to shift out of the Christian rock formula. Burnett produced her 1987 crossover gospel/pop album The Turning, after which she took the name Sam Phillips and, with Burnett's help, signed with Virgin. Burnett and Phillips were married in the late 1980s. Burnett did not rush back into the studio to record his own work, but with encouragement from Columbia, he made The Criminal Under My Own Hat in 1992.

In order to make a record he was satisfied with, Burnett had to reevaluate his earlier work. "I listened to all of my old records and tried to pick out what I do well. I noticed that the more simple stuff, the stuff which comes more naturally to me, is generally the stuff that works best, so I tried to work within that vein," he told Pulse!. The strategy seemed to work as far as the critics were concerned. The reviews were favorable and the decision to scale back on production was praised. A Rolling Stone review commended the album's "broad palette of simple yet subtle instrumental touches." Burnett's songs again focused on human treachery and social decay but, as always, dealt as sternly with himself, "the criminal under my own hat."

Worked on O Brother Soundtrack

As he put his own solo career on hold in favor of that of Sam Phillips, Burnett turned toward a common occupation of middle-aged rock artists: he became involved with film soundtracks. After producing soundtracks for several 1990s films, including Prêt-á-Porter (1995) and Stealing Beauty (1996), Burnett joined with the Coen Brothers' directorial duo to provide music for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a comic epic centered on the adventures of a diverse group of characters on the loose in the Depression-era South. The film allowed Burnett to indulge his passion for old-time country, bluegrass, and blues sounds, and it featured guest appearances from Ralph Stanley and other legendary musicians. The O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack album confounded industry forecasts by selling an estimated six million copies.

Suddenly the 50-plus Burnett was seen as a producer who could appeal to the tastes of educated, musically curious listeners. He formed the DMZ label as a subsidiary of the giant Sony conglomerate, and went on to produce Ralph Stanley, an album with a striking collection of obscure old songs that brought the 75-year-old Stanley to wider popularity than he had ever experienced. Burnett returned to the film studio for 2002's Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and the 2003 Civil War epic Cold Mountain, and in 2006 he released his first solo album in 14 years, The True False Identity. A double-disc retrospective released that year, Twenty Twenty: The Essential T Bone Burnett, testified to the riches of one of American music's most underrated figures.

Selected discography

Solo albums

(As J. Henry Burnett) The B-52 Band & the Fabulous Skylarks, UNI, 1972.
Truth Decay, Takoma, 1980.
Trap Door (EP), Warner Bros., 1982.
Proof Through the Night, Warner Bros., 1983.
Behind the Trap Door (EP), Demon, 1984.
T Bone Burnett, Dot/MCA, 1986.
The Talking Animals, Columbia, 1988.
The Criminal Under My Own Hat, Columbia, 1992.
The True False Identity, DMZ/Columbia, 2006.
Twenty Twenty: The Essential T Bone Burnett, DMZ/Columbia, 2006.

With others

(With the Alpha Band) The Alpha Band, Arista, 1976.
(With the Alpha Band) Spark in the Dark, Arista, 1977.
(With the Alpha Band) The Statue Makers of Hollywood, Arista, 1978.
(With Elvis Costello, as the Coward Brothers) "The People's Limousine," Imp/Demon, 1985.
(With the Alpha Band) Arista Albums, Acadia, 2005.

As producer

(The Van Dykes) Sunday Kind of Love, Bell, 1966.
(The Legendary Stardust Cowboy) Paralyzed, Psycho-Suabe, 1968.
(Delbert and Glen) Delbert and Glen, Clean/Atlantic, 1971.
(Robert Ealey and His Five Careless Lovers) Live at the New Bluebird Nightclub, Hue, 1972.
(Maria Muldaur) There Is a Love, Myrrh, 1982.
(Leo Kottke) Time Step, Chrysalis, 1983.
(Los Lobos) … And a Time To Dance, Slash/Warner Bros., 1984.
(Los Lobos) How Will the Wolf Survive?, Slash/Warner Bros., 1985.
(Marshall Crenshaw) Downtown, Warner Bros., 1985.
(Peter Case) Peter Case, Geffen, 1986.
(Elvis Costello) King of America, Columbia, 1986.
(BoDeans) Love and Hope and Sex and Dreams, Slash/Warner Bros., 1986.
(Leslie "Sam" Phillips) The Turning, Myrrh, 1987.
(Los Lobos) By the Light of the Moon, Slash/Warner Bros., 1987.
(Roy Orbison) In Dreams: His Greatest Hits, Virgin, 1987.
(Sam Phillips) The Indescribable Wow, Virgin, 1988.
(Elvis Costello) Spike, Warner Bros., 1988.
(Joe Henry) Shuffletown, A&M, 1990.
(Sam Phillips) Cruel Inventions, Virgin, 1991.
(Bruce Cockburn) Nothing but a Burning Light, Columbia, 1991.
(BoDeans) Go Slow Down, Reprise, 1993.
(Counting Crows) August and Everything After, DGC, 1993.
(Sam Phillips) Martinis and Bikinis, Virgin, 1994.
(Bruce Cockburn) Dart to the Heart, Columbia, 1994.
(Jimmie Dale Gilmore) Braver Newer World, 1996.
(Gillian Welch) Revival, 1996.
(Gillian Welch) Hell Among the Yearlings, 1998.
(Soundtrack) O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Mercury, 2000.
(Ralph Stanley) Ralph Stanley, Columbia, 2002.
(Soundtrack) Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, DMZ/Columbia, 2002.
(Soundtrack) Cold Mountain, DMZ/Columbia, 2003.
(Autolux) Future Perfect, 2004.
(Adam Freeland) Back to Mine, DMC, 2005.
(Natalie Merchant) Retrospective, Rhino/Elektra, 2005.
(Bruce Cockburn) Speechless, Rounder, 2005.
(Cassandra Wilson) Thunderbird, Blue Note, 2006.

Sources

Periodicals

Acoustic Guitar, January 1993.

Billboard, August 15, 1992; November 13, 1993.

Creem, July 1988.

Entertainment Weekly, January 12, 2001, p. 81; May 31, 2002, p. 105.

Metro Times, September 2, 1992.

Musician, March 1986; July 1992.

Pulse!, August 1992; July 1993.

Record, January 1984.

Rolling Stone, September 30, 1982; November 11, 1982; November 24, 1983; March 24, 1988; September 3, 1992.

Time, June 10, 2002, p. 60.

Online

"The Man Behind the Curtain," MSNBC.com, http://www.msnbc.msn.com (July 15, 2006).

"T Bone Burnett," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (July 15, 2006).

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Burnett, T Bone

T Bone Burnett

Singer, songwriter, producer

For the Record

Became Successful Producer

Acclaimed Albums Didnt Sell

Returned to a Simpler Sound

Selected discography

Sources

As well known for his production of other artists as for his own pop and folk-inflected albums, T Bone Burnett has been a familiar figure on the rock scene since the late 1960s, when he first left his Texas hometown for Los Angeles. His abilities as producer, singer, songwriter, and studio musician combined with his wide-ranging tastes have brought him into contact with a broad spectrum of musicians. His vast production credits include albums by Elvis Costello, Delbert McClinton, Maria Muldaur, Leo Kottke, Los Lobos, Marshall Crenshaw, Peter Case, Roy Orbison, the BoDeans, Bruce Cockburn, Counting Crows, and his wife, Sam Phillips. Burnett often contributes instrumental and writing support when he produces; he has also performed on many other recordings, including those of Tonio K. and Marti Jones, and has cowritten songs with such artists as Costello and U2s Bono.

Burnett is notable for his intense commitment to making thoughtful, high-quality, socially conscious music. He is outspoken on the subject of politics and frequently critical of the recording industry, and he and his wifeunlike many of his colleagues in the music businessare practicing Christians. Impatient when he finds himself pegged as a Christian rocker, Burnett insists that labelling him in that way misses the point: in a Rolling Stone interview he told Steve Pond, Morality is a moment-to-moment process of making decisions. It is not a specifically Christian thing. The moral point of view in my songs is something Ive always had, not something that comes with my religion.

Burnett has always balanced his own recording career with his work as a producer and band member for other peoples acts. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1948, Burnett grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, where he played in local bands, frequented blues bars, and was a member of a performance group called Los Creativos. He picked up the nickname T Bone at the age of five. After finishing high school he tried college for a little while, but before long he quit in order to establish a small recording studio. By the end of the 1960s Burnett left Texas and headed for Hollywood. There he began playing with Delaney and Bonnie, produced a record for Delbert and Glen, and, in 1972, released his first solo album, The B-52 Band & the Fabulous Skylarks, under the name J. Henry Burnett.

Burnett wasnt ready to tour in order to promote the album. As passionate as he was about making music, live performance did not come naturally to him. Later he explained to George Kalogerakis in Rolling Stone, I never had any ambition to be a famous performer. I started out being a record producer. Ive just poked around in this and that a bit. The introspective Burnett concluded, Probably a lot of thats fear. In 1975,

For the Record

Born John Henry Burnett in 1948, in St. Louis, MO; raised in Fort Worth, TX; married second wife, Leslie Sam Phillips, late 1980s; children: two daughters (first marriage). Religion: Episcopalian.

Began playing with and producing bands, 1960s; moved to Los Angeles, early 1970s; made first solo album, The B-52 Band & the Fabulous Skylarks (under name J. Henry Burnett), 1972; produced recordings by Delbert and Glen, among others; toured with Delaney and Bonnie and then with Bob Dylans Rolling Thunder Revue, 1975; formed the Alpha Band with Rolling Thunder veterans Steven Soles and David Mansfield and recorded three albums between 1976 and 1978; appeared in films Renaldo & Clara, 1976, and Heavens Gate, 1980; began making solo albums as T Bone Burnett, starting with Truth Decay, 1980; toured with Richard Thompson and Elvis Costello, 1984; with Costello, as the Coward Brothers, cut single The Peoples Limousine, 1985; produced recordings by numerous artists, including Leo Kottke, Los Lobos, Bruce Cockburn, Roy Orbison, Marshall Crenshaw, Elvis Costello, the BoDeans, Counting Crows, and Sam Phillips.

Awards: Named Songwriter of the Year in Rolling Stone Critics Poll, 1983.

Addresses: Agent Addis Wechsler, 955 South Carrillo Dr., 3rd floor, Los Angeles, CA 90048.

however, after he moved to New York City and spent some time on the Greenwich Village club circuit, Burnett joined Bob Dylans Rolling Thunder Revue. After the tour, Burnett founded the Alpha Band with Revue veterans David Mansfield and Steven Soles. They recorded three albums before disbanding in 1978, and Mansfield and Soles appeared on Burnetts 1980 Truth Decay.

Burnett made his film debut in Renaldo & Clara, a 1976 documentary by Sam Shepard about the Rolling Thunder experience; in 1980 Burnett appeared in Francis Ford Coppolas colossal flop, Heavens Gate. Around this time Burnett returned to the Episcopalian faith he had left behind in Texas; it was a period when many of his Rolling Thunder bandmates, including Dylan, were discovering Christianity.

Burnett opened for Elvis Costello on tour in 1984, and the two began working together. They briefly performed as the Coward Brothers, sort of a spoof on the 1950s pop vocal duo the Everly Brothers, and even made a single, The Peoples Limousine. Burnett went on to produce two albums for Costello, King of America and Spike.

Became Successful Producer

Burnett worked on Orbisons comeback album, the 1989 Mystery Girl, along with other Orbison fans such as Elvis Costello, Bono, George Harrison, and Tom Petty, and acted as musical director for an Orbison Cinemax concert special, A Black and White Night. Around this time Burnett also produced work by Leo Kottke, Marshall Crenshaw, Peter Case, the debut album of the BoDeans, and three records for Los Lobos that catapulted them onto the charts.

Costello describes Burnetts production style as thoughtful and patient. Discussing the making of King of America, Costello told Musician, Generosity is a word that flew around a lot. Its something to do with T Bones influence. T Bone was saying, Remember what the point was. Why did you write it? People dont often do that. Producers obviously dont do that enough. Sam Llanas of the BoDeans commented in Billboard, [Burnett] can be brutally frank without being brutal; he would make suggestions that clarified the whole thing. Evaluating his own skills in an interview with Dan Ouellette of Acoustic Guitar, Burnett reflected on his commitment to the music itself: My goal as a producer is to try to help the song live and, hopefully, not simply live, but live passionately or defiantly or gloriously or humbly or honestly.

Acclaimed Albums Didnt Sell

Burnetts solo career, meanwhile, was developing more slowly. In a pattern that would characterize his work, his first two releases after the breakup of the Alpha Band, 1980s Truth Decay and the 1982 EP Trap Door, were received enthusiastically by the critics but did not sell. Burnetts lyrics wrestled with everyday ethics, focusing on personal hypocrisy, daily compromise, and faithless love, but also on the possibility of transcending despair.

In a review in Rolling Stone, Ken Tucker wrote that Truth Decay suggests that T Bone Burnett is the best singer-songwriter in the country right now. No one this year will make music more forthright, more tender, more scrupulously free of cheap irony and trumped-up passion. Yet despite consistently glowing, appreciative reviews, Burnett never gathered a large following. Burnett has appeared to take his relative lack of popular success in stride. In concerts, joking about the medias references to his cult status, he would ask audiences, Are you guys a cult? In Acoustic Guitar, Ouellette asked Burnett if he ever doubted his abilities. Burnett answered, Sure, but its only been during periods when Ive believed in and conformed to the competitive aspect of the music business. I would think I wasnt very good because I wasnt selling enough records. Despite discouraging sales figures, Burnett continued to make records that were more artistic than commercial and got first-rate studio support on them; Ry Cooder and Richard Thompson played on the 1983 Proof Through the Night, for example, and Billy Swan and Los Lobos David Hidalgo both appeared on T Bone Burnett.

Warner dropped Burnett in 1984 after two critically acclaimed but poor-selling records. Burnett, however, went on to release another EP, Behind the Trap Door, in England shortly afterward. In 1986 he made the well-received T Bone Burnett on Dot, an MCA label. That album, with its country influence and relatively spare sound, is regarded by some critics as Burnetts best. Throughout the 1980s Burnett experimented with a range of sounds, from the rockabilly flavor of Truth Decay and simple song-centered Trap Door to the more highly produced Proof Through the Night. His last album of the decade, 1988s The Talking Animals, is among his most ornate and ranks among Burnetts least favorite. A Billboard article reported that Burnett considered the album calculated and pretentious; the critics tended to agree.

Tired out by a long busy spate of producing and recording, Burnett took some time off after The Talking Animals. Around 1986 he had been introduced to a singer and songwriter named Leslie Phillips, who had made several successful records in the early 1980s for the Christian record label Word and wanted to shift out of the Christian rock formula. Burnett produced her 1987 crossover gospel/pop album The Turning, after which she took the name Sam Phillips and, with Burnetts help, signed with Virgin. Burnett and Phillips were married in the late 1980s. Burnett did not rush back into the studio to record his own work but with encouragement from Columbia, which had released The Talking Animals, he made The Criminal Under My Own Hat in 1992.

Returned to a Simpler Sound

In order to make a record he was satisfied with, Burnett had to reevaluate his earlier work. He told Pulse!, I listened to all of my old records and tried to pick out what I do well. I noticed that the more simple stuff, the stuff which comes more naturally to me, is generally the stuff that works best, so I tried to work within that vein. The strategy seemed to work as far as the critics were concerned. The reviews were favorable and the decision to scale back on production was praised: A Rolling Stone review commended the albums broad palate of simple yet subtle instrumental touches, and Detroits Metro Times noted Burnetts use of simple, straightforward arrangements to deal with the thornier aspects of morals and ethics. Burnetts songs again focused on human treachery and social decay but, as always, dealt as sternly with himself, the criminal under my own hat, as with uncaring governments or a cruel lover.

It appears likely that Burnett will continue to make thoughtful albums that will be welcomed by his loyal band of listeners and by the critics, and that he will continue to do his best to make his corner of the music business more humane. In Acoustic Guitar he discussed problems he had encountered and observed: There is a sense of camaraderie with many of the people I work with. But theres also that hierarchy of fame that is completely debilitating to everyone. It puts up too many walls between people to allow for any community. It seems that if anything can create a sense of camaraderie and community within the recording industry, the dedication and diverse talents of T Bone Burnett can.

Selected discography

With the Alpha Band

The Alpha Band, Arista, 1976.

Spark in the Dark, Arista, 1977.

The Statue Makers of Hollywood, Arista, 1978.

With Elvis Costello, as the Coward Brothers

The Peoples Limousine, Imp/Demon, 1985.

Solo releases

(As J. Henry Burnett) The B-52 Band & the Fabulous Skylarks, UNI, 1972.

Truth Decay, Takoma, 1980.

Trap Door (EP), Warner Bros., 1982.

Proof Through the Night, Warner Bros., 1983.

Behind the Trap Door (EP), Demon, 1984.

T Bone Burnett, Dot/MCA, 1986.

The Talking Animals, Columbia, 1988.

The Criminal Under My Own Hat, Columbia, 1992.

As producer

The Van Dykes, Sunday Kind of Love, Bell, 1966.

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Paralyzed, Psycho-Suabe, 1968.

Delbert and Glen, Delbert and Glen, Clean/Atlantic, 1971.

Robert Ealey and His Five Careless Lovers, Live at the New Bluebird Nightclub, Hue, 1972.

Maria Muldaur, There Is a Love, Myrrh, 1982.

Leo Kottke, Time Step, Chrysalis, 1983.

Los Lobos, And a Time To Dance, Slash/Warner Bros., 1984.

Los Lobos, How Will the Wolf Survive?, Slash/Warner Bros., 1985.

Marshall Crenshaw, Downtown, Warner Bros., 1985.

Peter Case, Peter Case, Geffen, 1986.

Elvis Costello, King of America, Columbia, 1986.

BoDeans, Love and Hope and Sex and Dreams, Slash/Warner Bros., 1986.

Leslie (Sam) Phillips, The Turning, Myrrh, 1987.

Los Lobos, By the Light of the Moon, Slash/Warner Bros., 1987.

Roy Orbison, In Dreams: His Greatest Hits, Virgin, 1987.

Sam Phillips, The Indescribable Wow, Virgin, 1988.

Elvis Costello, Spike, Warner Bros., 1988.

Joe Henry, Shuffletown, A&M, 1990.

Sam Phillips, Cruel Inventions, Virgin, 1991.

Bruce Cockburn, Nothing but a Burning Light, Columbia, 1991.

BoDeans, Go Slow Down, Reprise, 1993.

Counting Crows, August and Everything After, DGC, 1993.

Sam Phillips, Martinis and Bikinis, Virgin, 1994.

Bruce Cockburn, Dart to the Heart, Columbia, 1994.

Sources

Acoustic Guitar, January 1993.

Billboard, August 15, 1992; November 13, 1993.

Creem, July 1988.

Metro Times, September 2, 1992.

Musician, March 1986; July 1992.

Pulse!, August 1992; July 1993.

Record, January 1984.

Rolling Stone, September 30, 1982; November 11, 1982; November 24, 1983; March 24, 1988; September 3, 1992.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from Columbia Records press material, 1994.

Gina Hausknecht

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"Burnett, T Bone." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Burnett, T Bone

T BONE BURNETT

Born: John Henry Burnett; St. Louis, Missouri, 14 January 1948

Genre: Country, Rock

Best-selling album since 1990: The Criminal under My Own Hat (1992) (as a performer); O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) (as a producer)


TBone Burnett's career began in the 1960s where he carved out a stylistically eclectic career as an offbeat musical handyman. His career shifted more to producing and, in the 1990s and 2000s, his creative touch enabled music's biggest names to enjoy tremendous recording success. Burnett is a much respected and well-liked figure within the music industry and is the driving force behind a revived fascination for bluegrass music in the new millennium.

John Henry Burnett received the nickname "T Bone" when he was five years old while growing up in Fort Worth, Texas. After high school, Burnett tried college but quit to run his own recording studio in Fort Worth. He also performed in various blues bands before relocating to Los Angeles, California, where he recorded his debut album, The B-52 Band and the Fabulous Skylarks (1972). That same year he hooked up and toured with the folk rock duo, Delaney and Bonnie. In 1975 Bob Dylan hired him to play guitar on his Rolling Thunder Review Tour. When the tour ended, he joined forces with tour mates, guitarist/singer Steve Soles and the multitalented David Mansfield, to form the Alpha Band. Alpha Band recorded three critically acclaimed but only marginally successful albums before they broke up. Burnett began a solo career and released six albums in the 1980s, again scoring high marks with the critics but failing to achieve commercial success.

Burnett is a keen songwriter whose music wavers between a Texas-inflected country folk and British-styled pop rock. His lyrics are often political in nature and can be heavy-handedly moralistic at times. Burnett is unusual in contemporary music for unabashedly proclaiming his Christian beliefs. Yet many of his songs harangue fundamentalist preachers and conservative politicians, furthering his multifaceted image and "everyman" appeal. After his 1992 release, The Criminal under My Own Hat (1992), Burnett began to focus more of his energy on producing other artists' albums.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Burnett's work as a producer/engineer gained momentum and his strong sense of artistic integrity made him a favorite of many artists as he produced albums for Los Lobos, Leo Kottke, Marshall Crenshaw, Elvis Costello, the legendary Roy Orbison, and other top performers. He also served as musical director for the televised concert tribute to Roy Orbison A Black and White Night (1989), which featured numerous stars as special guests, including Bruce Spring-steen and Elvis Costello. Burnett produced The Turning (1987) for Christian singer Leslie Phillips, which helped Phillips make inroads into secular pop music. Burnett and Phillips (who changed her name to Sam Phillips) married, and Burnett went on to produce all of her later efforts into the 1990s.

Except to the cultlike followers of his recording career, Burnett remained largely unknown into the 1990s. However, music industry insiders considered Burnett a major force. He continued to produce successful work, most notably albums for Counting Crows, the Wallflowers, k.d. lang, Tony Bennett, and Gillian Welch. Although he has produced more than seventy albums, it was the Grammy Awardwinning soundtrack, O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), that brought Burnett special notoriety.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? features Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, Ralph Stanley, and others performing traditional country and bluegrass songs, many from the 1930s and before. The album sold more than 6 million copies and started a bluegrass revival of sorts in the United States. It also scored a 2001 Grammy Award for Album of the Year and gave Burnett a 2001 Grammy Award for Producer of the Year.

In 2002 Burnett used the same idea for the soundtrack to the film Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002). He spent considerable time combing Louisiana's rural locales in search of authentic Cajun blues and traditional pieces. The album is a mixture of soft jazz and Cajun-influenced southern songs. It features performances by Bob Dylan, Lauryn Hill, Tony Bennett, and Ray Charles, among others.

After a nearly ten-year hiatus from songwriting, Burnett started composing music for the theater, specifically Sam Shepard's play, The Late Henry Moss (2000). Burnett remains a throwback to an era when the music industry was about the music, and not the stardom.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

The B-52 Band and the Fabulous Skylarks (UNI, 1972); Truth Decay (Takoma, 1980); Trap Door (Warner Bros., 1982); Proof through the Night (Warner Bros., 1983); Behind the Trap Door EP (Demon, 1984); T Bone Burnett (MCA, 1986); The Talking Animals (Columbia, 1988); The Criminal under My Own Hat (Columbia, 1992). With the Alpha Band: The Alpha Band (Arista, 1976); Spark in the Dark (Arista, 1977); The Statue Makers of Hollywood (Arista, 1978). As producer: Delbert and Glen (Atlantic, 1971); Time Step (Chrysalis, 1983); How Will the Wolf Survive? (Warner Bros., 1985); Downtown (Warner Bros., 1985); King of America (Columbia, 1986); In Dreams (Virgin, 1987); Cruel Inventions (Virgin, 1991); August and Everything After (DGC, 1993); Dart to the Heart (Columbia, 1994); Revival (Almo Sounds, 1996); A Wonderful World (Sony, 2002). Soundtracks: O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Universal, 2000); Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (Sony, 2002).

donald lowe

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