Elvis Costello and the Imposters - The Delivery Man (2004)
By Tom Johnson
Somehow, nearly thirty years into his career, Elvis Costello managed to turn out one of his best albums ever.
Costello is anything but afraid to take a chance. Some may argue that he's too willing to do so, leaping from one style to another, often leaving the less adventurous listeners in the lurch while doing so. Those who simply listen to Costello for the song-writing have been rewarded with a (mostly) consistent and large catalog of music.
The advantage of having such an illustrious past behind him is that, while it may have frustrated fans at some points, the long, varied career behind Costello allows him to pick and choose from everything he's done to craft albums now, arming him with a bevy of powerful tools with which to create music. And while he's able to borrow from his past, he resisted simply rewriting old songs with The Delivery Man.
This time around, he mixed up that troublesome mid-period, where he'd moved from the uppity post-punk of his angry young man" period to the thoughtful faux-country style he inhabited on King of America, with the nuanced and purposeful angst of the peeved nearing middle-aged man" of Brutal Youth, with a few touches of the obtuse, gritty dirt of 2002's When I Was Cruel.
The result is a bunch of gorgeous ballads, the best of which are the yearning Either Side Of The Same Town" and the sorrowful Nothing Clings Like Ivy" juxtaposed with the raucous 60s throwback energy of Monkey to Man" (one of my favorite songs of the year, in fact) and the rousing country-rock of There's A Story In Your Voice," featuring the vocals of new-country star Lucinda Williams, whose drunken-cowgirl schtick is as irritating as it is endearing. The result is an album of finely crafted songs that will provide for pleasant listening for years to come.