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Friday Night is Music Night (A good year for the roses edition)

In 1981 Elvis Costello released Almost Blue, an album of country music cover songs written by the likes of Hank Williams ("Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used To Do?)"), Merle Haggard ("Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down") and Gram Parsons ("How Much I Lied"). The album was a tribute to the country music he had grown up listening to, especially, George Jones. Some avid fans dismissed the album because it was inconsistent with earlier recordings. It was not a country-rock album (a la The Byrds or Eagles), which might have been more palatable to his established audience and to reviewers, but rather an undiluted country album. It received mixed reviews, some of which accused Costello of growing soft. Perhaps in anticipation of the inevitable accusations of apostasy, the first pressings of the record in the UK bore a sticker with the message: "WARNING: This album contains country & western music and may cause offence to narrow minded listeners". Almost Blue did spawn a surprise UK hit single in a version of George Jones's "Good Year For The Roses" (written by Jerry Chesnut), which reached #6.

It was shocking and very brave, here was the epitome of cool punky songwriters doing something so uncool, and amazing.


As a lifelong devotee of the cult of Parsons-worship (Jones worship is a more complex matter, but I also admit to it) I was also just the right age when Elvis Costello brought out 'Almost Blue' to be tremendously thankful that someone cool could sing the kind of music I loved, but which was a bit of a problem socially. In the end, I don't know that it helped a lot, but it felt good very briefly.

A little tangentially, I have always said to anyway who will listen (there aren't many) that punk used the same rhythms as country (real country, I mean, not the Nashville pop). I would love to hear comments on that.

Elvis lives.

I had a drunken scuffle with Declan back in the late seventies....so I'm not a fan...sorry about that elvis....I blame the cider and pernod (what the hell was that about?)

I was never overly fond of Country music but I always felt that EC did this one really well. If he had introduced slide guitar though, it would have been cheesy.

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