Almost Blue opened the doors for several generations to dig deep into the heart and soul of American traditional music and understand that purism has the integrity that the next big thing generally lacks. Moreover, the weight of Costello's emotion is so intense that on songs such as Hank Williams' "Why Don't You Love (Like You Used To Do)" his anger and frustration is palpable. But Costello presciently recognizes the importance of singers like Gram Parsons while paying close heed to the country classics of "Sweet Dreams" and "Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down." The bonus CD contains a number of live tracks from three separate gigs at the influential Palomino Club in North Hollywood, Calif., The Mean Machine in Aberdeen and one from London's Royal Albert Hall.
Featuring a crack session team of guitarists James Burton and Marc Ribot, Kojak Variety was recorded in 1995 and much of the material revealed Costello's unresolved and under-exploited penchant for obscure r&b songs from the '50s. The bonus CD includes Dan Penn and Chips Moman's "Dark End Of The Street," that hardy perennial of the American songbook "My Resistance Is Low" and Lennon/McCartney's "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away." There are some curious choices too: Lennon/McCartney's mawkish "Step Inside Love" is a perfect example of the fine line between good taste and post-modern irony.