|The Elvis Costello
Elvis records in Clarksdale
Elvis (Costello, that is) spotted in Clarksdale
By EMILY Le COZ, Staff Writer April 16, 2004
Tupelo and Memphis might claim Elvis Presley, but Clarksdale's got Elvis Costello - at least until today.
The British rock musician and his band, The Imposters, left the birthplace of the blues this morning after cutting a track for their new album due out Sept. 23.
During his two-day stay, split between The Shack Up Inn on Hopson Plantation and Jimbo Mathus' downtown recording studio, Costello needed no time adjusting to the slow pace of the Delta.
"I don't get to spend much time in small towns. I usually play in big cities, and the only time I get to see the country is out the window of a bus going down the interstate or from the window of a plane," said Costello, who lives in New York, Dublin and Vancouver. "It's nice to be here - I wish I could have stayed longer. Everybody is so welcoming."
Costello, who has released more than two dozen albums in his 25-year career and recorded the bulk of his new material for the upcoming CD at Sweet Tea Studio in Oxford. When he heard about Jimbo Mathus' operations in Clarksdale, however, the Grammy-award winner decided to take a detour.
Packed into a recording space smaller than the one he used to cut his first album - 1977's My Aim Is True - Costello and his band mates churned out a track for the new compilation. The studio's old-fashioned equipment and sound tiles will give the song a raw edge that Costello hopes will enhance the album.
"Jim's studio is an old room with old tiles, and it will give the music a different quality and a different character," Costello said. "It's nice and vivid."
Costello's idea to record in the South came after playing a Birmingham, Ala., show two years ago and receiving a warm welcome from the crowd. After bypassing this part of the county after firmly establishing his career in the late 70s, Costello realized it had something important to offer - a fresh perspective on the music he had honed in the past 25 years.
"It's good to play where we are less well-known because the crowd will let us know how we sound," Costello said. "We use them as a judge of our music and our new songs."
During their stint in the South, Costello and the band - pianist Steve Nieve, bassist Davey Farragher and drummer Pete Thomas - will play four shows in Oxford and two in Memphis to test their latest sound.
Although a Clarksdale performance wasn't planned this time, Costello joked about launching an album-release tour in September from Hopson Commissary - and only Hopson Commissary.
"Make everybody come to Clarksdale if they want to see us," Costello said. "This will be the only place we'll play."
Along with the album he's recording now - described as rhythm and blues - Costello will release a purely orchestral album on the same date. He spent months composing a musical score that was later performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.
Reaching far outside the traditional boundaries that seem to encapsulate Costello's work, the orchestral album shows another side of the multi-faceted musician.
"I'm used to telling stories with words, but I eventually made the music vivid enough to make it tell a story on its own," Costello said. "I'm proud of it. I think it has some beautiful things. People who know me from my rhythm and blues music will feel the powerful drive in this album."