In that respect, Nashville probably encountered a major identity crisis late this spring with the arrival of — omigod Martha, lookit that — Elvis Costello. A long-time fan of old country legends such as George Jones, Costello decided to record an album of perennial Nashville standards.
The problem with Almost Blue, Costello's newest, is that one of England's leading new wave lights took on Nashville — and Nashville won. Instead of bringing his vicious delivery and hopping rock to country music, Elvis Costello uses Almost Blue to mimic the archaic style associated with cheap booze and a good fistfight.
Although Costello pumps some new wave life into Hank Williams' immortal "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used To Do"), the rest of Almost Blue is a re-cap of the slow, plodding stuff more appropriate to a Georgia gin mill than Elvis Costello's latest record. Doobie Brothers "guest" guitarist John McFee's pedal steel additions could best be placed in more appropriate, if not very comfortable, spots other than Almost Blue.
Costello fans will find further disappointment with the song selection, as Almost Blue contains no new Costello material. The album's traditionalist tone is reinforced with the replacement of regular producer Nick Lowe with country regular Billy Sherrill, and the inclusion of the Nashville Edition — yes, those clean cut folks backing Buck Owens every week on Hee Haw on additional vocals.
Technically, Costello is very good at copying the standard Nashville sound; and, imitation is one of the best signs of flattery. Unfortunately, when considering Costello's past efforts, Almost Blue falls flat with the album's original premise — sacrificing almost every tenet of Costello's new wave sound for authenticity.
Even the hardiest of Costello fans will have a hard time with Almost Blue. This is an album for zealots who follow
blindly — and, for most new wave lovers, with deaf ears, too.