Nowhere is the "damned if you do and damned if you don't" attitude more prevalent than in the claustrophobic little world of rock 'n' roll.
Take Elvis Costello's new country album Almost Blue (Columbia) for instance.
This is a brave new effort in brand-new territory for Costello, and quite in keeping with that curious and adventurous spirit that fuels the most exciting artist to emerge from the British New Wave.
Yet, because Almost Blue puts Costello squarely in mainstream country & western, those very people who've praised his pioneering work in the past now claim he's either gone too far, or sold out to Nashville, or both.
In fact, he's done nothing of the sort, Almost Blue is, quite simply, Costello's tribute to the music and artists he's long admired, performed in inimitable Costello-style and supported by his stellar trio The Attractions. John McFee of the Doobies adds the final touch with some fine work on lead guitar and pedal steel.
Costello has chosen to cover 12 of the finest songs ever written in country music — songs by giants like George Jones, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams and Gram Parsons — and he covers them simply, lovingly and without affectation of any kind.
Costello's remarkable talent for vocal phrasing and coloration shines on the ballads here, and he has a field day with the vivid lyrics that typify country music.
Producer Billy Sherrill's "Too Far Gone," and the late Gram Parson's "Hot Burrito #1" and the "How Much I Lied" are but three reasons to buy an album that is both superb C & W and further proof that Elvis Costello is the most intriguing and open-minded pop artist to come along in many years.