Over the next two weeks I’ll feature albums unfamiliar to me that topped critics lists in 1982. When searching for those titles, I often came across Costello’s baroque pop masterpiece, knowing full well that it would top my own list. The album topped the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll that year. It’s the record that really cemented Costello as a critical favorite.
My conversion from country music hater to a guy who Tivos the CMAs and owns every Miranda Lambert and Brad Paisley album has been well documented on this blog. But Elvis Costello hasn’t really benefited from my change of heart.
Sure, I’ve enjoyed his forays into country styles, blended with his own rock sensibility, but that was the case even before I became a fan of country music.
Almost Blue, his one true country and western album, remains a mystery to me, banished from my CD shelf years ago never to return.
Elvis Costello’s fifth album came out the same year as Trust — 1981 — and it must have thrown fans for a real loop. Almost Blue is a 32-minute record made up of 12 covers of classic country and western songs.
I wish I’d been an Elvis Costello fan at the time, because it must have been something to hear the man’s first four albums — packed with brainy wordplay and furious modern musicality — and then find out that his follow-up was something this square.
But the truth is that Costello was (and remains) a huge fan of American country music. This just happened to be the first time he explored that interest in the studio.