Review: Jack Foley
THE Delivery Man is widely considered to be one of Elvis
Costello's most ambitious and vital albums to date.
Like a lot of great things in music history, it began with the
late great Johnny Cash.
As Costello explains on his website: "The Delivery Man
is actually a character imported from a song I wrote in about
1986 for Johnny Cash.
"He's based on a real character. I read this story in the
paper about a man who confessed to murdering his childhood friend
30 years later, having been in prison for a number of other things.
"I thought this story was very interesting because he'd
carried this burden of guilt of this childhood crime.
"I wrote a fictional version of that story in a song called
Hidden Shame, which John recorded."
However, the story of the Delivery Man has remained with Costello
ever since and eventually began to inspire not only a series of
songs but also the start of story arc as well.
"I've thought about that character a lot and what happens
to people that commit crimes in childhood," he continues.
"In the story, the character, Abel, is somebody who appears
in a small community and plays a different role to a group of
"Abel carries his secret heavily (as in the track, Country
Darkness) and the reason that he seems reminiscent of somebody
in the song, The Delivery Man is that they have seen
his face as a child in a newspaper report of the crime he committed.
"There is still a little of that person in the adult Abel.
Of course, that's never actually stated anywhere in the record.
That's just something that I know."
Given the story behind the record, it's little wonder to find
that the album unfolds like a good book - with most related tracks
furthering the tale of The Delivery Man of the title (save for
three stand-alone efforts that reflect Costello's view of the
And for fans of the artist, this special edition will come as
a must-have, featuring Costello and The Imposters at their most
personal and inspired, as well as exploring the band's love for
the sound of Southern Americana.
Forthcoming download-only single, There's A Story In Your
Voice, is a classic case in point - a raw, boisterous deep
South anthem featuring a blistering vocal turn from Lucinda Williams.
It's clear that Costello and The Imposters are having a good
time, yet your enjoyment of it depends on how much you like Costello's
previous work and country/southern music in general.
If, like me, you find it hard to get into, then The Delivery
Man actually delivers very little, and poses an arduous journey.
That's not to say the album is bad - for it's clear this is a
labour of love for all concerned that's packed with well-written
songs and some great musical performances.
Veering from the up-tempo, blues-heavy vibe of Bedlam,
to the intelligent and thought-provoking title track (which compares
his character to both Elvis Presley and Jesus), there is plenty
to admire - if not to like.
What's more, the album comes with a second disc, entitled 'The
Clarksdale Sessions', which contains seven new tracks, including
alternate arrangements of songs from The Delivery Man,
plus three previously unrecorded songs - In Another Room,
The Monkey and The Dark End of the Street.
The album was recorded in four hours at Delta Recording Studio,
Clarksdale, Mississippi and is presented in what Costello calls
'glorious Delta Verite production'.
It was also produced by Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, Counting
Crows, Buddy Guy & Cracker) and Elvis Costello.
With this in mind, it remains a vital work for Costello devotees
and anyone who likes their music steeped in the sound of Americana.