Elvis Costello

Almost Blue [Expanded]

In the winter of 1982, we were living in Barcelona, Spain, and desperately needed a dose of small-town America—delivered unexpectedly one rainy afternoon when our Vespa-riding English roommate returned from having seen The Last Picture Show and dropped onto our turntable Elvis Costello’s newest release, Almost Blue. We almost wore that record out, listening long into many nights to Costello’s aching covers of Merle Haggard, George Jones and Gram Parsons. Nearly a quarter-century later comes Almost Blue [Expanded]. While the original 12 country covers on the first disc make the new release appropriate for any self-respecting Costello or country fan, the 27 additional songs on the second make it indispensable. Highlights—in addition to Parsons’ “How Much I Lied” and Jones’ “A Good Year for the Roses,” from the original—include duets with Johnny Cash (“We Oughta Be Ashamed”) and Jones himself (“Stranger in the House”), as well as live and “lost versions” of songs from the original and early live versions of songs from other albums, including “Motel Matches,” “Tears Before Bedtime” and “Radio Sweetheart.” Pure Americana, by way of England, Ireland—and Spain.