By David Werther.
T Bone Burnett, The True False Identity (Columbia Records, 2796-93970-2)
Professor Douglas Groothuis entitled his award-winning critique of postmodernism Truth Decay. In his introduction, Groothuis writes: "I must also credit T-Bone Burnett for the witty phrase 'truth decay,' which was the title of one of his musical recordings." That recording was released in 1980. In 1988 Burnett released Talking Animals with the song "Wild Truth."
ARE WE SUPPOSED TO TAKE ALL THIS GREED AND FEAR AND HATRED
SERIOUSLY? IT'S LIKE WATCHING DUST SETTLE. IT NEVER CHANGES.
IT'S TOO CONSISTENT.
MERCY IS NOT CONSISTENT. IT'S LIKE THE WIND. IT GOES WHERE
IT WILL. MERCY IS COMIC, AND IT'S THE ONLY THING WORTH
I NEED THE WILD TRUTH.
In his most recent recording Burnett once again addresses the notion of truth, an unusual topic in the world of popular music.
Those who only know Burnett as a studio wizard responsible for the sound tracks of O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Cold Mountain should not expect mountain music here—far from it—and may be surprised by his rapier wit and turn of phrase. Pity the one on the receiving end of a Burnett barb.
He is a personality not a person. ["Hollywood Mecca of the Movies"]
Cowboy with no cattle, warrior with no war
They don't make imposters like John Wayne anymore. ["Fear Country"]
In an instance of controlled rage, in "palestine texas" Burnett addresses George W. Bush.
Presidents come and presidents go
They rise like smoke they fall like snow
Do you believe the things you say
Your lofty thoughts are filled with hay
What is this faith that you profess
That led you to this colossal mess
When you awaken from this coma
You'll find yourself in Oklahoma
When you come out of this self delusion
You're going to need a soul transfusion
It might be easy to dismiss Burnett's scathing critique of Bush if he did not also take a hard look at himself. He does. After all, he once entitled an album Criminal Under My Own Hat. In The True False Identity Burnett offers the following self-deprecating lines.
Someone stole my identity
And I feel sorry for him ["Hollywood Mecca of the Movies"]
You numbed your conscience with sanctimony
I numbed mine with narcissism ["earlier baghdad [the bounce]"]
With song titles like "Zombieland," "Fear Country," "Blinded by the Darkness," and the aforementioned lyrics, one might be pardoned for thinking that The True False Identity is an exercise in despair. Not so. Burnett is convinced that "this version of the world will not be here long It is already gone / It is already gone" ["palestine texas"]. "Fear Country," "Zombieland," and "blinding darkness" are all vulnerable because "Honesty is the most subversive of all disguises" ["Hollywood Mecca of the Movies"]. That is the heart of T Bone Burnett's message and that is the truth.