Fort Worth-bred T Bone Burnett shows listeners “The Other Side” on first solo LP in 16 years

T Bone Burnett is illuminated by a sliver of light
T Bone Burnett Photo: Dan Winters

For all of his considerable influence in modern music, T Bone Burnett’s solo work is relatively rare. The Fort Worth-raised singer, songwriter is releasing his first studio solo project in 16 years this Friday.

He wrote the bulk of The Other Side in a three-week spurt. Between that and 2008’s Tooth of Crime, he’s stayed busy with a slew of projects, not least of which was working to devise a new recording standard.

Burnett told me in 2008 his goals when making solo records were part of a “sonic quest to find the grail — to find the thing, to make the record that does for me or does for other people what hearing Jimmy Reed did to me when I was 15.”

This 12-track collection is, surprisingly, a foray into the 76-year-old’s more accessible side — Burnett’s eclectic solo catalog is defiantly original, and often challenging — leaning hard into his folk, country, and pop sensibilities.

The cumulative effect helps listeners understand precisely why such diverse artists as Bob Dylan, Taylor Swift and Cassandra Wilson have sought his guidance as a producer — he has a gift for conjuring a vivid mood, blending tasteful instrumentation and luminous melody.

A rare solo venture

There was a stretch from 1980 to 1987, when Burnett roughly released a new studio LP every year, but he slowed dramatically after 1992. In between 2008’s Tooth of Crime and this year’s The Other Side, Burnett released a live LP in 2011 (The Speaking Clock Revue: Live from the Beacon Theatre), a soundtrack in 2013 (A Place at the Table), and a pair of collaborative records with Jay Bellerose and Keefus Ciancia in 2019 and 2022.

Knack for collaboration

Burnett’s Rolodex is formidable after more than 50 years in the music business, but rather than stack his record with nothing but A-listers, he applies the same sort of considered approach for himself as he would an artist he’s producing. Guests here include Lucius, Weyes Blood, Steven Soles, and Rosanne Cash (“Everything was recorded very quickly; nothing was labored over,” Burnett said in Side press materials. “So, when this was done, I sent it to Rosanne — and it came back just like that, as you hear it on the record.”)

Distinctive perspective

The brisk genesis of The Other Side still leaves room for some characteristic Burnett surprises and clever turns of phrase — “The Pain of Love,” in particular, seems to delight in its wordplay — which makes the fleet, 41-minute record feel more expansive than its relatively slender run time would suggest. In that span, Burnett touches upon everything from Old Testament-style vibes (the opener “He Came Down”) to sweet, off-kilter love songs (“Come Back (When You Go Away),” “Waiting for You”) to waltzing laments about human nature (“Everything and Nothing,” which Burnett co-wrote with fellow North Texas-bred songwriter Gary Nicholson).

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on X (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.