Personnel: T-Bone Burnett (vocals, guitar); Marc Ribot, Dean Parks (guitar); Jerry Douglas (guitar, dobro); Mark O'Connor (violin, mandolin); Andrea Zonn (viola); Van Dyke Parks (piano, accordion); Jerry Scheff, Roy Huskey Jr., Edgar Meyer, David Jackson (bass); Jim Keltner, Harry Stinson (drums).
Engineers: Joe Schiff, Tchad Blake, John Hanlon, Bil Vorn Dick, Max Garcia.
Recorded at Kiva West, Los Angeles, California; Ocean Way and Sunset Sound Factory, Hollywood, California; Sound Emporium and Music Row Audio, Nashville, Tennessee.
All songs written by T-Bone Burnett, except "It's Not Too Late" (Burnett/B.Neuwirth/D.MacManus), "Every Little Thing" (Burnett/Neuwirth) and "The Long Time Now" (Burnett/Neuwirth).
On 1992's The Criminal Under My Own Hat, T-Bone Burnett seemed to be searching for a middle ground between his previous two albums, the bright, angular pop/rock of The Talking Animals and the spare, acoustic introspection of T-Bone Burnett. On this album, though, Burnett was willing to let these two sides of his musical personality display a greater influence upon one another; the acoustic numbers are more passionate and fuller sounding than on his previous efforts (often buoyed by Jerry Douglas on dobro and Mark O'Connor on violin), and the rockers have been peeled back a bit, giving the individual musicians a bit more room to move and letting the inner workings of the songs show. The operative philosophy appears to have been to allow the songs to shine though without excess gingerbread, and that's just what the material demanded; as always, Burnett's songs reveal his obsessions with the human failings of pride, fear, and greed, and he's willing to point the finger at himself as often as he finds shortcomings in others (though he saves his greatest wrath for the corrupt politicians and media savvy preachers attacked on "I Can Explain Everything," in which he suggests a little selective beheading might be a good idea -- as Burnett puts it, "the French knew how to lynch"). But unless his subjects happen to be George Bush or Jimmy Swaggart, Burnett finds room for compassion in nearly all of these songs, once again proving he's one of the few avowed Christians in pop music who seems to understand how tricky the nature of sin and forgiveness can be. Thoughtful, often witty, and boasting a stellar cast of fine musicians, The Criminal Under My Own Hat was easily T-Bone Burnett's strongest album since Proof Through the Night, and a rare pleasure for thinking music fans. ~ Mark Deming
Rolling Stone (9/3/92, p.67) - 3.5 Stars - Good Plus - "...a shrewd and cohesive collection of rock, country and folk that utilizes a broad palette of simple yet subtle instrumental touches..."
Spin (9/92, p.105) - Highly Recommended - "...Simultaneously whimsical and brooding, these tracks define Burnett anew--he's a rock & roll Tim Burton..."
Entertainment Weekly (8/7/92, p.61) - "...Burnett's highly moralistic, deeply religious compositions tilt nobly at the windmills of human weakness, both global and personal. Of such honest, cathartic communications are masterpieces made..." - Rating: A+
Q (10/92, p.79) - 4 Stars - Excellent - "...brilliant... fundamental Burnett...his voice, guitar and a packing-case drum sound echoed up for spanking, slapshot rock & roll: the tradition lives!.."
Musician (8/92, p.90) - "...the settings are never less than exquisite...A remarkably absorbing album..."
Audio Magazine (11/92, p.120) - "...THE CRIMINAL UNDER MY OWN HAT is like an album of some great Bob Dylan songs that Dylan never wrote...his skewed imagery and lyricism are ever-fascinating as he gazes into the apocalypse..."
Stereophile (2/93, p.211) - "...T-Bone's best...[Burnette] splits his time between raging attacks on the status quo (`We could go on a mission to get all politicians and preachers off the air') and the kind of love songs that'll still be in fashion 50 years from now..."