National Ransom

Elvis Costello traffics in so many genres, it must be hard to focus on one. Here, he doesn't. Instead, busy producer T Bone Burnett brings period detail to a set of country, folk, music-hall and rock songs whose unifying conceit is America's recent fiscal sins. The rockers echo vintage Costello, down to Steve Nieve's squealing Vox organ. The subject matter calls for more musical edge than they deliver. But parlor songs like "Jimmie Standing in the Rain" evoke an era when political anger was cloaked in gentler sounds. Often, whispers speak louder than screams.