Elvis Costello – Good Year For The Roses

4th November 2023 · 1980s, 1981, Country, Music

When Elvis Costello brought out an album of country cover versions in 1981 – remarkably, his sixth album in four years – my music world was turned upside down.

At that time I still associated country “and western” music with occasional novelty hits like Boy Named Sue, Convoy and DIVORCE. But if Elvis rated it, then I was going to listen to Almost Blue – a collection of mostly maudlin tunes (hence the title) recorded in Nashville.

This was, after all, the guy who had made two of the greatest albums of all time in This Year’s Model and Armed Forces, and followed up with a tribute to vintage soul in Get Happy!

The first single showcasing this new/old style from Elvis was a cover of George Jones’s Good Year For The Roses. I must confess that I had never heard the song, and never heard of Jones, when it came out.

But I fell for it right away: the lonesome wail of a pedal steel still sends shivers down my spine every time I heard it on a record, and Costello’s pained vocal seemed the perfect fit for these sad songs.

The single was a hit, surprising many people (probably including Costello himself, who may have seen a covers album as a stopgap before returning with the self-penned songs of Imperial Bedroom.

And this was essentially my gateway drug to country music.