Talking T Bone in L.A. and Austin

book soup

Lloyd Sachs will talk about the writing of T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit, sign copies and read from it at two great bookstores. On March 30 at 7 PM, he’ll be at BookSoup in Hollywood, not far from Burnett’s West Coast manse. And on April 1 at 2 PM, he’ll be at BookPeople in Austin, Texas. There will be musical surprises – details to come. Come on out and hear about one of the great figures in American culture.


Author Lloyd Sachs chats up “T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit” on Milwaukee Public Radio’s “Lake Effect” and appears at Boswell Books

Talking T Bone at the fantastic Boswell Books in Milwaukee, Lloyd Sachs was joined by ace rockers John Sieger and Mike Hoffmann of Semi-Twang. They performed Burnett’s “River of Love” and Sieger’s “The Strangest Kind,” recorded by the BoDeans on their Burnett-produced Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams.



John Sieger

Sachs was interviewed on “Lake Effect” by co-host Bonnie North. “It wouldn’t be difficult to play a six degrees game with T Bone,” Sachs told her. “He really has rubbed up against so many artists in one way or another.”

To hear the program, which features John Sieger, go here.


Bonnie North

The Talking T Bone caravan continues in late March in Los Angeles and Austin. Details to follow!

No Depression chooses Lloyd Sachs’ “T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit” as one of the Top 10 music books of 2016


From Henry Carrigan’s article: “Lloyd Sachs’ critical appreciation of T Bone Burnett pulls us in with a magnetic force, or, better, like a fisherman pulling in a catch that’s bigger than life.”

Read the piece in its entirety here.

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A strong review for Lloyd Sachs’ “T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit” from Glide Magazine



December 1, 2016 by Doug Collette

Lloyd Sachs adopts just the right tone in his book on the life and times of eccentric genius T Bone Burnett. Writing A Life in Pursuit, the author remains ever cognizant of his subject’s idiosyncratic tendencies in both his personal life and his work. And, also knowing full well Burnett’s penchant for high-minded philosophical declarations, the author maintains a healthy detachment from the topics under discussion even with regular insertions of his own his well-considered opinions.

As a result Sachs’ book flows from the very start and maintains an infectious readable quality virtually throughout. His plain-spoken language acts as a catalyst to personal and artistic elements in discussion, directly or indirectly about Burnett, such as his taste(s) in recordings of his own and other artists. Thus, Sachs generates an indiscernibly fast pace through T Bone’s formative years, where he was equally enamored of roots music and the Beatles, to apocryphal phases right up to nearly modern times. Burnett’s period in Bob Dylan’s ‘Rolling Thunder Review, for instance, comes along before the reader realizes how much ground Sachs has covered.

There is a stall of sorts, however, as the author moves through the busy period where Burnett alternates efforts to generate momentum as a recording artist under his own name while producing others to essentially pay the bills. As with his own records, particularly early in his career, T Bone often opts to collaborate with those like (eventual) wife Sam Phillips or the singular Joe Henry, both of whom who are either on the outs with a label or choosing an obviously esoteric artistic path in an almost willful decision to maintain aesthetic purity at the sacrifice of commercial success. Kindred spirits indeed!

During this segment of A Life in Pursuit, the title takes on a new meaning or at least lends itself to a more broad interpretation. It’s almost as if the phrase reverses itself and, instead of T- Bone Burnett in pursuit, he is in fact the one being pursued, whether by his own personal demons, the hell-hounds of blues lore or, as he might himself consider, predators in the form of business leaders within the industries he chooses to work. It’s perhaps a reflection of Lloyd Sachs’ affinity with his subject that his immersion (and subsequent dissections) of Burnett’s work, such as The True False Identity, mirrors his subject’s devotion to his art and craft. But an extended interval of chapters, perhaps not coincidentally, appearing around “Hit Man,” consists of little more than record reviews, albeit discerning ones: Sachs is notably up to date in not only placing the albums in proper artistic perspective, but he also takes time to notes which titles have been reissued on CD since their original vinyl release.

By the time A Life in Pursuit is over, it might be difficult for more than a few readers to find T Bone Burnett a sympathetic figure. His doubts about his own worth as a recording artist sound hollow in the wake of his prodigious success as a producer–the soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou? Is just the first in a string of them–while his his disdain for the marketplace sounds particularly disingenuous when he engages in a bitter dismissal of the internet as a means of circulating music; there’s no doubting his well-schooled value judgment of sound quality, but it’s somewhat telling, particularly in the divergent perceptions of him as a collaborator, that his own pursuit of high fidelity in the form of CODE, comes to a quick and abrupt end.

At this juncture in the book, via lofty statements about the nature of art in society vis a vis commerce, Lloyd Sachs almost, but not quite, becomes an apologist for T Bone In fact, as he recounts Burnett’s series cinematic collaborations, it’s almost as if the writer is campaigning on behalf of his subject. With just cursory review of the cumulative effect of all he’s recounted of Burnett’s work to this point, neither he nor T Bone have anything to be embarrassed about—in purely objective terms, quite the contrary.

So, bringing in a string of references to movie history and literary allusions seems, at best, a stretch of the objectivity of this pedigreed contributor to Rolling Stone and Downbeat, among other highly-regarded publications. At worst, it’s a stance of pure pretension, but that’s no greater a blemish than some minor factual errors within the two-hundred sixty pages: the thought arises, again, that the author’s mirroring his subject’s eclectic interests and passions. In that light, Lloyd Sachs’ take Burnett’s work on soundtracks might rightly be interpreted as the latter’s own self-styled movie cum music projects, where he is producer, director and participant, with a cast of his own choosing and a script molded from his choices of material.

Very early in A Life in Pursuit, Lloyd Sachs mentions of Kris Kristofferson as means of introducing musician/composer Stephen Bruton as a long-time creative partner of T Bone Burnett’s and by the time the author concludes his account of his subject’s ‘non-career,’ some lines from another song by the writer of “Me and Bobby McGee,” (“The Pilgrim – Chapter 33,”) seem to accurately encapsulate the subject of this contemporary biography: ‘he’s a walking contradiction… partly truth and partly fiction…’ Whether or not T Bone Burnett ever resolves (at least some of) his contradictions, beginning with full authorization to Sachs for an updated version of this book, would seem to be fodder ripe for an updated edition.

“T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit” highlighted on Shelf Awareness



Bookends and Beginnings, Evanston, Ill., hosted author and music critic Lloyd Sachs (r.) in conversation with Henry Carrigan, contributor to the American roots music magazine No Depression, about Sachs’s new book, T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit (University of Texas Press).

Chicago’s WGN and WDCB are the latest radio outlets to join in on the discussion of Lloyd Sachs’ acclaimed “T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit”


Author Lloyd Sachs discussed what MOJO (in a four-star review) called a “definitive” book about legendary producer and songwriter Burnett, with WGN’s Dave Hoekstra on “Nocturnal Journal” and WDCB’s Brian O’Keefe on “The Arts Section.”

Go here to listen to “Nocturnal Journal.”

Go here to listen to “The Arts Section.”


“A much-needed critical biography of an influential artist by a superior critic of the genre” – Library Journal, starred review of Lloyd Sachs’ “T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit”

book coverReviews don’t come any better than this:

“Record producer, singer/songwriter, and film and television soundtrack designer -Burnett’s work has influenced and in some ways defined American music in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Longtime popular music critic Sachs, whose outstanding work in the alt-country magazine No Depression deserves its own volume, tells Burnett’s story and deftly analyzes his output in this work. The account is filled with such -Burnett milestones as his Grammy Award-winning soundtrack for the Coen Brothers film O Brother, Where Art Thou? and collaborations with Jakob Dylan, Bob Dylan, Los Lobos, Sam Phillips, and Counting Crows. Written without Burnett’s participation, the book is nonetheless authoritative. Appendixes annotating his frequent collaborators and a select discography are invaluable. Sachs’s coverage of Burnett’s film and television work details his methods and astutely evaluates his achievements in these media. A particular highlight is the author’s consideration of his subject’s contributions to the HBO series True Detective. VERDICT A much-needed critical biography of an influential artist by a superior critic of the genre.-John Frank, Los Angeles P.L.

Lloyd Sachs discusses “T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit” on Texas Public Radio and Chicago station WLUW


Here the entirety of Sachs’ conversation with “Texas Matters” host David Martin Davies, which originated on KSTX San Antonio, here


Sachs also talked T Bone with host Michael James on “Live from the Heartland,” which aired on Loyola University’s WLUW.


“It might be argued that Burnett is nearly as important in American culture as the Boss” – Arkansas Democrat Gazette

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On Books
Life in Pursuit: Author’s take on T Bone Burnett
By Philip Martin

It used to be, in the ’60s, when people said that all [rock ‘n’ roll] music sounded alike, they were wrong. But now, when people say that, they’re right. That’s because it all comes out of a big machine, and everybody uses the same machine.”
— T Bone Burnett, April 2001

Well, I got the Bruce Springsteen book.

It’s, um, really good: generous, humane and honest. The guy can write. He’s sounded the human heart. It’s exactly what I expected it to be.

But it’s No. 1 on the best-seller lists and has been heavily reviewed already. I’d rather take my time and read it. Other people have used words I’d probably use. “Solemn” is one. “Tender” is another. That’s what Richard Ford said — and that’s why I try never to read reviews before I write my own.

Besides, sometimes it’s wise to counter-program. Not nearly as many people have heard of Lloyd Sachs’ new book T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit (University of Texas, $26.95) as Springsteen’s Born to Run, but it might be argued that Burnett is nearly as important in American culture as the Boss.

A case can be made for Burnett as one of the founders of the Americana movement and he has produced some of the most compelling and profound (yes, profound) pop music of the past 40 years. He may be best known for his work in producing the soundtrack for the Coen brothers’ 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? (which is widely credited with restarting the American roots music movement). Just as impressively he helped the Coens capture the feeling of the pre-Bob Dylan Greenwich Village folk scene in 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis.

He’s also a tremendously effective singer-songwriter, although he has never achieved the commercial success that some (including me) predicted for him. Over the past 35 years I’ve talked to Burnett a few times and have written plenty about him; I consider myself well-versed in his story. But Sachs’ book — which covers Burnett’s career from his days as a 17-year-old with his own studio in Fort Worth (where he was one of the co-conspirators behind the Legendary Stardust Cowboy) to his recent work for HBO and his problems with digitalized music — told me plenty I didn’t know.

So I contacted the Chicago-based Sachs to have a conversation about the book.

Q. While you address this in the book, can you talk about why you thought this book was necessary?

A. For starters, no one previously had written a book about one of the major figures in American popular culture of the past few decades. I also was increasingly impatient with the large percentage of self-professed fans who were unaware of his distinguished work as a singer and songwriter. I mean, when a club owner friend in Chicago who butters his bread with roots artists confessed to me that he didn’t know T Bone had recorded his own music, I knew there was at least one compelling reason to write the book.

Q. A friend of mine knew and recorded with “Terry” Burnett in Fort Worth in the ’60s. He says that the young T Bone was a completely formed and nonimitative musician by the time he was 19 and that he had no illusions about the marketplace or pop music’s role in it. (Apparently he used to lecture starry-eyed idealists.) This wised-up character seems a little at odds with the 68-year-old T Bone, who expresses an unalloyed belief in the transformative power of art. (“He was so much older then …”) Does this seem to jibe with the Burnett you know?

A. I don’t see those two outlooks/approaches as opposing, and neither does Burnett. Like Alfred Hitchcock, to name a visionary in another field, Burnett recognizes that the lines that get drawn between “art” and “entertainment” are flimsy. The greatest art can appeal to the commercial masses and the greatest entertainment can rise to the level of art. Burnett got into trouble when he compromised and in some ways overcalculated his work in the studio to make it more salable — only to achieve no such commercial breakthroughs. As discussed in the book, he was far more successful making other artists, the ones he produced, successful.

Q. Around the time O Brother was coming out, Burnett told me he was moving away from producing in order to concentrate on his own songwriting and recording. While he never obtained the kind of breakthrough success as a performer that he sought, I wonder if he hasn’t actually been more influential behind the scenes; there are literally dozens of records I think of as T Bone Burnett records.

A. Yeah, I have never thought of [2007’s] Raising Sand as a Robert Plant-Alison Krauss album; without his contribution it would have been a far different album, and likely a less remarkable and successful one. As great a talent as [Burnett’s ex-wife, singer] Sam Phillips is, obviously her contribution on her [Virgin] recordings is inseparable from his. Who knows? Maybe she would have been more commercially successful with another producer, but likely at the cost of several masterpieces.

It’s hard to gauge influence. I can say with great certainty that Joe Henry would not have become the distinguished producer he is had he not been mentored by Burnett. Henry himself says as much. But there are any number of artists who have done their best work with Burnett and chosen not to work with him again — or, as in the case of BoDeans, learned their lesson and attempted to return to the T Bone fold. You know, if Diana Krall was so happy with the album she did with him, why did she subsequently run into the arms of one of the slickest Hollywood producers for her follow-up record?

What Burnett represented and represents still to many so-called roots artists is the gold standard of authenticity. The last thing they’re going to get working with him is compromised or taken out of their natural element. Some of his experiments don’t translate into commercial success, but for artists like Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Gillian Welch, pushing the envelope with him in the studio was a valuable and enriching experience.

Q. I’ve only seen T Bone play live once — he played a show with Phillips at Hendrix College and it was tremendous, though under-rehearsed; there was some confusion over who would sing what parts. But I’ve heard conflicting reports — he’s been described as a terrific showman and as suffering from stage fright.

A. Burnett is never comfortable appearing before the public in any guise. And that excess in his early performances likely was a matter of overcompensating for his shyness. But as he has matured, he has thrived as a performer in the company of musicians he’s close to and as the leader of a rock band. He just played the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco, which he does every year. I would love to have seen those sets.

Q. Production aside — and I rather like the way it sounds, possibly because it’s what I heard first — Burnett’s 1983 album Proof Through the Night is at least a great collection of great songs. “Shut It Tight,” “Fatally Beautiful” and “Baby Fall Down” are just wonderful and even something like “Hefner and Disney” still manages to hold my interest 33 years on. I honestly think it’s one of the best records of the ’80s — and I don’t really understand why he seems to dislike it so much. You touch on this in the book, but can you expand on it?

A. Who can explain why certain artists are perpetually dissatisfied with efforts other people embrace, the way you and others embraced Proof? Why does Spielberg feel the need to tweak, re-edit or add footage to films that were perfectly fine in their original theatrical release? In this case, a lot of his dissatisfaction may owe to the fact that he didn’t have control of the finished work and was at the mercy of studio executives who had no clue what was best for the music. Keep in mind that the album started out as more of an acoustic live-in-the-studio effort along the lines of his 1986 Dot album T Bone Burnett, which some people hold above all others. In the end, you have to go with what T Bone himself said about the album, that he was unhappy with the production, particularly certain cloying echo-ey effects.

Q. Reading the book, I got the feeling Burnett was sitting right beside you — not interfering, and being helpful to a point — as the book unspooled. It must have been strange not to interview him for the project. While I’ve always believed you should trust the work more than the artist, do you have any feeling as to why he preferred to demur? He’s a fascinating talker, and as far as I know, he has never been microphone shy.

A. Yeah, that’s the $64,000 question. Having interviewed him several times and been in his company on other occasions, I can attest to his warmth and charm. I have to believe what Sam said: that he is skittish taking a backward view of his life and work at a time when he has got so much yet to accomplish and a diminishing amount of time to do it.

Q. The concept of pursuit — as reflected in the book’s title — is really wonderful. Can you delineate the difference between a pursuit and a career?

A. I wouldn’t presume to speak for Burnett, but the way I view it is that a pursuit is open and endless and continually [self-] renewing, true to the Zen concept mentioned in the introduction. You exist in the moment, in constant pursuit of truth and other high ideals. Whereas a career is defined by events that largely exist in the past and are viewed in terms that don’t have anything to do with the spiritual/creative flow that produced them.

Q. Much of the book deals with the seismic shifting of options for those trying to be heard and possibly sell their music in today’s market. Are there any new successful models Burnett’s observed in his research and experience?

A. On a panel at this year’s AmericanaFest, he said he’s working on a new storage system that will provide a breakthrough alternative to analog and digital; he wasn’t yet at liberty to discuss, he said.

He has a new video series coming on Spotify, an interesting wrinkle considering his warnings to young musicians to avoid the internet like the plague. He reserves his animosity for YouTube and Google.

Source: Life in Pursuit: Author’s take on T Bone Burnett

Talking T Bone on XRT: A Podcast Pursuit

Lloyd Sachs, onetime voice of “Sachs and the Cinema” on Chicago’s long-running alternative rock station WXRT, joined old pals Marty Lennartz and Bill Cochran to discuss his book “T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit.” You can hear the chat in its entirety here:

Source: Talking T Bone Burnett’s Vast Influence On XRT’s Sound