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Review of The Delivery Man
Louisvillle Scene, 2004-11-06
Jeffrey Lee Puckett

Costello glories in Americana

The Delivery Man
Elvis Costello & the Imposters (Lost Highway)
Costello glories in Americana

By Jeffrey Lee Puckett • November 6, 2004
The Courier-Journal
Elvis Costello's music is is raw, loose and rocking on his latest release.

Elvis Costello's love of American roots music has been well-documented. He was singing country music when it was more novelty than de rigeur cool, has always fancied himself a soul singer and made an album of cocktail pop with Burt Bacharach. And there's the name, of course.

In some ways, "The Delivery Man" is Costello's most cogent love letter to American music. The entire record is steeped in Americana, from the Eddie Cochran-like riff that drives "Monkey to Man" through the Gram Parsons vibe that gives "Heart Shaped Bruise" its deep blue center.

But it's "Either Side of the Same Town" that stands as the album's emotional and artistic center. It's a blatant, loving tribute to Dan Penn, king of blue-eyed Southern soul songwriters, and the ghosts of a hundred forgotten soul singers wander its verses.

The album stumbles significantly only once. Hooking up with alt-country diva Lucinda Williams was too obvious to begin with, and "The Story in Your Voice" doesn't redeem the idea. Williams' vocal is painful, a cartoonish parody of herself, and Costello sounds as if he's trying to drown her out before anyone notices.

The result is dull bedlam, whereas the rest of the album is far more pointed bedlam (including the song "Bedlam").

Compared to much of Costello's recent music, especially last year's coolly detached "North," "The Delivery Man" is raw, loose and rocking. The Imposters — drummer Pete Thomas, bassist Davey Faragher and pianist Steve Nieve — sound as if they listened to Jerry Lee Lewis for weeks before recording, and Costello's guitar playing is surprisingly sharp and aggressive.

Costello's roots are far from Nashville and Memphis, but "The Delivery Man" proves that he knows his way around the dark end of the street pretty well for a British mutt with delusions of soulful grandeur.