Despite flooding the market with product, Costello's last bona fide masterpiece was the gorgeous, acid-tinged Imperial Bedroom in 1982. For his first effort on the respected Lost Highway label, Costello brings his A game in a set of 13 enduring songs that rank up there with Almost Blue, "I Want You" and other peaks.
The predominant mood is sultry country-soul, the Dusty-in-Memphis sound mimicked so well at times by Shelby Lynne. But Costello doesn't merely approximate, adding inspired, top-notch tunes, jaw-dropping vocal performances and magnificent musicianship from longtime collaborators the Imposters and pedal steel guitarist John McFee (who played on Costello's 1977 debut).
A subtle concept album of sorts, The Delivery Man deals with the lives of three female characters voiced by Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams. Spare gems like the beautiful "Nothing Clings Like Ivy" and the Southern soul thriller "Country Darkness" bookend the album's stunning and deeply felt title track inspired by the true-life tale of a man who murdered a childhood friend and confessed 30 years later. Costello has delivered a winner, chilling and unforgettable.