T Bone Burnett, ‘Tooth of Crime’ (Nonesuch)
Few musicians conjure apocalyptic dread better than Burnett, and few plays foresaw a world of toxic entertainment more presciently than Sam Shepard’s 1972 Tooth of Crime. So a Burnett album based on Shepard’s old project makes sense. But between the singer/songwriter’s hectoring-preacher delivery and predictable surf-guitar-noir arrangements, the result is one dreary sermon. Even moments of potential transcendence — like the lofty “Kill Zone,” co-written with the late Roy Orbison — feel leaden. When Burnett opens his mouth, he brings everything down, and not just mankind.