Elvis Costello and the Imposters

The other Elvis has long displayed a weakness for genre exercises, and while some of his dabblings have worked (most notably the pseudo-R&B of 1980's Get Happy!!), the majority have felt awfully self-conscious. Almost Blue, a weak 1981 tribute to country music recently reissued by Rhino, is a case in point, and because The Delivery Man represents another salute to American roots music, even Costello admirers can be excused for expecting the worst. Fortunately, the disc sprinkles some genuine high points among the affectations.

"Button My Lip," the opener, epitomizes this blend. The tune is loud and lively, but a rehearsed-sounding stutter Costello inserts early on shows that it's not mannerism-free. Likewise, "There's a Story in Your Voice" makes E.C. seem like something of a poseur simply by pitting him against duet partner Lucinda Williams, whose twang comes naturally. But the bare-bones production by Costello and Dennis Herring, who cut most tracks fast and dirty in Mississippi, adds immeasurably to ditties such as the raucous "Bedlam" and "Needle Time," an effective venture into gutbucket territory.

UPS needn't sweat it; Delivery Man only delivers about half the time. But by Costello's most recent standards, that ain't bad.

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