On Almost Blue   Elvis Costello Explores His Inner Country Self

No doubt Elvis Costello knew he was no George Jones or Merle Haggard when, in the spring of 1981 he stepped before the microphone in CBS's Studio A in Nashville under the direction of veteran producer Billy Sherill (who passed away this past August), but he wanted to record an album of country covers in Nashville and following the cleansing craziness of the Trust sessions, this probably seemed like the right time.

This record was not particularly well received when it was first released, surely because fans were expecting an album of new Costello songs not an album of covers—particularly C&W covers, but the album has grown in stature. The Attractions acquit themselves well bending genres and Costello's cover singing hits all the right marks though with less grace, fluidity and vulnerability than that of the great country stars whose songs he covers.

Costello covers "Sweet Dreams", "Good Year For the Roses" among other country chestnuts as well as the Gram Parsons/Chris Ethridge penned Flying Burrito Brothers tune "I'm Your Toy" (if you see the 12" 45 of Costello performing this live backed by an orchestra, get it!).

I compared this reissue to an F-Beat original mastered at Townhouse and an F-Beat second press mastered at Strawberry. The Townhouse cut is pleasingly heavy in the bass and produces a spacious soundstage. The Strawberry cut produces more detail but flattens the picture and cuts the bass somewhat. On both Costello's voice sounds somewhat nasal and constricted. This remaster gives you the full bottom end and all of the detail plus Costello's voice sounds best here.

If Trust is among the most essential Costello albums, this one is the opposite: it's a dispensable album but one that's well-recorded and enjoyable to listen to. Of course the song "Almost Blue" is on Imperial Bedroom and not on this record.

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RoBoKok's picture

You forgot to mention the great hype sticker Elvis C. originally put on the LP:"Warning! This album contains Country & Western Music & may produce radical reaction in narrow minded people."

Hackmartian's picture

The version of "How Much I Lied" is worth every penny of the album's price. The piano part is gorgeous and will stick in your head for days. It's miles better than Gram Parsons' original and I wouldn't say that lightly...

volvic's picture

While some might not like this foray by Costello the last track on side 2 (going from memory) is fantastic and well worth the cost of the album, however, all songs, the whole album, is fantastic. Tastes differ but I would have given this album at least an "8" rating, love it.

Paul Boudreau's picture

One of my favorite "El" moments. There are quite a few on eBay at the moment if anyone's looking for a copy.

vinyl1's picture

I remember having a copy of 'Almost Blue' where "Psycho" was the last cut on side one. It is not on my current copy, an F-Beat Townhouse pressing, and I can't seem to find my earlier copies.

Did the record I remember exist? If not, how could I have heard the song?