On October 18 Shout! Factory will release T Bone Burnett Presents: The Speaking Clock Revue, an album showcasing 11 performances from a benefit concert at New York's famed Beacon Theatre that Burnett orchestrated last year with Participant Media. Proceeds from album sales, as with the live show, will benefit The Participant Foundation, to support the inclusion of music and arts education in public school systems.
In October 2010, multiple-Grammy® and Oscar®-winning producer T Bone Burnett organized an impressive group of musicians, dubbed The Speaking Clock Revue, and joined with Participant Media for concerts benefiting arts education. The lineup included Elton John, Elvis Costello, Leon Russell, John Mellencamp, Gregg Allman, Ralph Stanley, Jeff Bridges, Neko Case, Jim James, Punch Brothers, Karen Elson, and The Secret Sisters, as well as T Bone's cracker jack rhythm section consisting of bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellarose. The Speaking Clock Revue was recorded at the Beacon Theater in New York, and featured a house band made up of musicians from many Burnett-produced recordings and led by music director and guitarist Marc Ribot.
Burnett was inspired to do the fundraising concerts after attending an early screening of Participant's documentary Waiting for "Superman," from Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, It Might Get Loud), which focused on the troubled state of public education in the U.S., following a handful of promising students through a U.S. public school system and offering creative new approaches to education reform. Participant's Jeff Skoll, Jim Berk, Jeff Ivers and John Schreiber serve as executive producers on the album, the first release under the company's newly-created Participant Music banner.
Said Berk, "T Bone and his amazing lineup of musical artists, inspired by Waiting for "Superman," are making it possible for everyone to enjoy their outstanding performances, and at the same time, help to bring music and arts education to students across the country."
Burnett, well-known for his support of the roots and American music traditions, had collaborated previously with nearly all of the performers on The Speaking Clock Revue, with the exception of Jim James, Karen Elson and Punch Brothers, whom he asked to participate out of admiration. The inspired performances focused mainly on songs recorded with Burnett, many from recent albums.
With the likes of the venerable Ralph Stanley and duo of Elton John and Leon Russell sharing a stage with up-and-comers such as The Secret Sisters and Karen Elson, the result is a remarkable mix of artistry. The electricity is palpable as Neko Case lends her smoky harmonies to "Midnight Rider" with Gregg Allman, back on stage following a recent liver transplant, and as John Mellencamp delivers a heartfelt "Troubled Land." Other highlights included on The Speaking Clock Revue are Jim James performing "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)" from My Morning Jacket's new album Circuital, Punch Brothers dazzling with their experimental bluegrass stylings on "Rye Whiskey," and Burnett and emcee Elvis Costello accompanying Jeff Bridges for a rousing rendition of "Fallin' & Flyin'." The tracks selected to be included on the album were chosen by Burnett in conjunction with the artists.
In a review of the show, Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote "The songs were serious, which didn't mean they were dull. It was a concert of murder ballads and pleas for redemption, tall tales and tales of sorrow. Youthful verve — the breakneck bluegrass picking and warped traditionalism of the Punch Brothers, delicately harmonized and rocked-up versions of Bill Monroe and Johnny Cash songs by The Secret Sisters — was juxtaposed with the burdens and lessons of age."
Burnett was aiming to convey the excitement of collaboration and creation to a live audience, and he was successful. "The privacy and the intimacy of the studio afford artists the freedom to create," Burnett says, "but something thrilling happens in getting away from the machines and into the live communication of real-time storytelling in the larger community. The first tour I went on, my first job in show business, was on The Rolling Thunder Revue, and I've come back to that type of collaborative and extraordinarily rewarding experience from time to time."
T Bone Burnett Presents: The Speaking Clock Revue will be widely available in stores and online beginning October 18.