ON the cover of T Bone Burnett's current album, "The True False Identity," the veteran musician slings his guitar upside-down over his shoulder, like a bat ready to swing. But even though the spooky, forceful music inside is a sweet sonic bludgeon, full of intimate ruminations and accusatory rants to power, he connected without ever hitting folks over the head during his El Rey Theatre performance on Tuesday.
Which is not to say the singer-guitarist and his ace band of stellar guitarist Marc Ribot, longtime drummer Jim Keltner, upright bassist Dennis Crouch and keyboardist Keefus Ciancia didn't electrify the packed house with their blend of Howlin' Wolf-style blues, New Orleans funk, folk and rock. This was the L.A. resident's local stop on his first tour in almost two decades, and he started by apologizing for the confusion caused by the show being moved from the Wilshire Ebell Theater to the smaller-capacity El Rey. Then he blew away any lingering irritations with the rollicking, cryptic stomp "Seven Times Hotter Than Fire."
The Texas-raised Burnett, 58, may be best known to the public as composer and music producer of the Coen Brothers' 2001 hit film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" But his own critically acclaimed work stretches back to the early '70s, and, among other things, he's also produced albums by such artists as Los Lobos, Sam Phillips and Elvis Costello.