Costello and Burnett assembled an all-star group of players for Secret, Profane & Sugarcane
, which they dubbed the Sugarcanes. The band included such bluegrass and traditional country musicians as Jerry Douglas
on dobro, Stuart Duncan on fiddle and banjo, Mike Compton on mandolin, Jeff Taylor on accordion, Dennis Crouch on double bass and Jim Lauderdale on vocal harmonies. Burnett added his Kay electric guitar sound to several songs, the only amplified instrument on the album. Costello recalled to Billboard
: "We sat around in a semicircle where we could see each other very readily. I was able to direct things and people took the initiative... and they played just beautifully. The playing of the musicians was so responsive it just flowed. It's mainly, I guess you would say, bluegrass instrumentation, but they're playing my songs. They're not playing traditional bluegrass songs, and they don't sound like bluegrass songs. They're ballad form. Some of them are ragtime... It's always good to try and find new ways to play songs and to find new sounds to express songs you've already written."