Audiophile Review, October 7, 2015

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The Clarksdale Sessions

Elvis Costello

Mark Smotroff

For some reason, I never opened Elvis Costello's The Clarksdale Sessions EP until now. This EP came out on the heels of Elvis Costello & The Imposters' 2004 roots rock gem The Delivery Man.

The Delivery Man album is itself a fine slab of Americana-drenched bluesy roots rock augmented by Elvis Costello's distinctive songwriting prowess. And this EP is no different in that sense — we get swampy, raw jams that do not sound like retreads of old sides by Howlin' Wolf and Willie Dixon. Not that blues retreads would have been necessarily bad, but Costello has too much musical credibility to just fall back on something simplistic like that — and if he did want to put out a straight homage, he'd probably issue another collection like 1995's Kojak Variety.

The Clarksdale Sessions finds Costello and The Imposters live-in-the-studio giving us fine off-the-cuff alternate versions of tracks from The Delivery Man such as "The Monkey" and "Country Darkness." The slow-burner version of "Needle Time" is almost tremendous — I say almost in that I would have liked to have heard it gone on more with a really searing guitar solo (where is Neil Young when you need him?). The barroom piano and accordion version of "The Scarlet Tide" sounds very different than the haunting version played live on that tour and on the album.

The EP comes with two non-LP tracks as well, a new song called "In Another Room" and a cover of Dan Penn's classic "Dark End of the Street" (a tune which Elvis has covered in concert numerous times over the years including on the aforementioned Kojak Variety album). Overall the sound of this EP is simple and punchy, showcasing the raw sound of the band without any fancy production flourishes. If you like your Costello music unfettered, this may be a good EP for you to check out. Recorded by Jimbo Mathus and Chris Shepard at Delta Recording in Clarksdale, Mississippi, it's a fine and natural sounding mini-album.



Tags: The Clarksdale SessionsThe ImpostersThe Delivery ManWillie DixonHowlin' WolfKojak VarietyThe MonkeyNeedle TimeCountry DarknessNeil YoungThe Scarlet TideIn Another RoomDan PennDark End Of The StreetJimbo MathusChris ShepardDelta Recording

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Audiophile Review, October 7, 2015


Mark Smotroff reviews The Clarksdale Sessions.

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