It is sometimes forgotten just how little information was available to the dedicated music fan with an increasing obsession with roots American music in the early ‘80s. Demon Records, and its subsidiaries, were like a beacon in the dark at the time with their licensing of interesting American releases and their re-release programme for the lost classics of the then last twenty years or so on the subsidiary Edsel Label. The label was part of F-Beat Records, founded by Jake Riviera and Andrew Lauder in 1979, and, for a time, the UK home of Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe amongst others.
T-Bone Burnett’s ‘Proof Through The Night’ was picked up from WEA Records Ltd and released through the Demon subsidiary, Side Effects Records in the UK. Burnett first appeared on most people’s radar when he joined Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, and with fellow members of Rolling Thunder, David Mansfield and Steven Soles, released three albums on Arista as The Alpha Band before disbanding despite plenty of critical acclaim. Burnett was someone to watch, and following his debut release on Takoma Records, 1980’s ‘Truth Decay’, he landed a contract with WEA. ‘Proof Through The Night’ was Burnett’s sole album on WEA, though he did release an EP, ‘Trap Door’, and Demon released ‘Behind the Trap Door’ in the UK. Burnett has subsequently found great success as a producer while maintaining an idiosyncratic solo career, and while his subsequent releases have revealed many gems, ‘Proof Through The Night’ is Burnett’s most successful solo album.
Burnett recorded some of his best songs on ‘Proof Through The Night’, and is his best collection of songs, and the guest artists included Ry Cooder, Richard Thompson, Pete Townshend, Stan Lynch, and Mick Ronson as well as Burnett’s usual Texas and Rolling Thunder cronies. The music definitely fits the roots music category and is best described as guitar-driven folk rock. While the subject matter can be quite deep, and in the wrong hands could be considered pretentious, Burnette’s lyrics are often funny and sharply acerbic. While Burnett’s career as a producer has helped the likes of Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Gillian Welch, Leon Russell, and countless film producers and directors, he has never released an album that was such a complete representation of his overall songwriting talents. However, the fact that ‘Proof Through The Night’ was not self-produced may be the reason Burnett has blocked its re-release. He did include seven of its eleven songs on his ‘Twenty Twenty: The Essential T-Bone Burnett’ but five were updated versions, suggesting that the man himself isn’t as happy with the album as many of his fans and critics are.
‘Proof Through The Night’ has never had a full re-release on physical media though Rhino Records issued a limited edition 5,000 copy CD compilation ‘Proof Through The Night & The Complete Trap Door’ in 2007. Copies of the original vinyl release can be picked up for around £20 for the UK release, but American and European copies are going for considerably more thanks to world postage rates. The Rhino compilation, with postage, will cost you anywhere between £60 and £100. It is available for download and streaming.