You'd be hard pressed to find an album as varied as Elvis Costello's National Ransom (his 26th, give or take). Opening with the energetic title track, it at first appears to be an Americana effort in the vein of last year's Secret, Profane & Sugarcane (both produced by Grammy magnet T Bone Burnett), only set against the backdrop of the imploded economy. Here, he's fairly incensed - always a good thing in Costello's case - and as verbose and intelligent as ever.
Had the album continued like this, it probably would've worked fine. But ambition grows in Costello with age, and he instead dips his toe into folk ballads, jazz, pop, bluegrass, country and, of course, rock 'n' roll. And you know what? He's good at all of it, each tune full of twists and expertly executed by his Imposters and his Sugarcanes. Sure, there are snags over the 16 tracks (the dull Jimmie Standing In The Rain, the schmaltzy You Hung The Moon, the meandering All These Strangers). But for the most part, Ransom delivers.
Top track: Five Small Words