Record Mirror, August 8, 1981

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Record Mirror


Costello croons country classics

Kevin Knight

At last! Elvis Costello has gone pure country and western. And this week, after a year of speculation about the star's musical direction, Record Mirror exclusively reveals details about the one time rocker's first British country gig in Scotland — where few of the 200 strong audience had heard of him!

The venue for this one-off British date was a country music club in Aberdeen where he was billed only as a special guest.

It gave him a chance to play material from an album he has just completed in Nashville, Tennessee, before authentic country and western fans.

London Weekend Television, who have been filming a documentary about Costello's dramatic change in musical direction, wanted some footage shot in a British club to supplement the film of the recording sessions.

They arranged a gig at Aberdeen's Motel Metro, the only club which they felt had the right atmosphere, at a reported cost of £15,000.

John McFee of the Doobie Brothers, reckoned to be among the top three pedal steel guitarists in the world, was flown in from Nashville.

When Costello took the stage few seemed to recognise him, but that didn't matter to the audience as he powered into a lengthy set. Within three numbers the Stetson toting audience was screaming Bonanza sized approval as he did covers by Charlie Rich, Gram Parsons and other country superstars.

But this was not Elvis Costello meets the Eagles. Although the songs were vastly different from his former material he put as much energy into them as he did on "Oliver's Army," "Lipstick Vogue" and "I Don't Wanna Go To Chelsea."

The Attractions gave the songs a powerful rhythm and blues base and Steve Nieve's keyboard playing was urgent and nervy, totally in contrast to McFee's flowing pedal steel work. It all helped Elvis pull off this country and western tour de force.

He may have been wearing red boots and a string tie but underneath that cowboy shirt beats the heart of a rock and roller. He delivered the songs with an intense compassion quite removed from the average C&W crooner

So why the change in direction? As usual he refused to give interviews. However, he did drop hint midway through the first set. A year ago Costello made an album with American country superstar George Jones called George Jones And Friends. Introducing a Jones song he said it had always been his "dream, or rather my ambition" to sing one of his songs. He did that and a lot more.

We will have to wait until the new album is released in September to discover whether Costello will find the recognition he seeks in country music or become this year's model for a music business stumbling blindly into the future.

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Record Mirror, August 8, 1981

Kevin Knight reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions with John McFee, Thursday, July 30, 1981, Hotel Metro, Aberdeen, Scotland.


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Photographer unknown.
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