In the fall of 1982, I had just moved to Hebbronville. At that time, I was listening to two albums that reflected my usual taste in music. They were Trap Door by T-Bone Burnett and Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen.
Although we listened to some country music at Floyd's Hotel and The Den, I wasn't a big fan yet. Anything I knew about country music came from wearing out a copy of Hank Williams' 40 Greatest Hits. I read that Dylan was a fan of Williams, so it seemed like a good idea to check Hank out. 40 Greatest Hits was worth owning for the picture on the cover of Hank in that Nudie Suit.
Living in deep South Texas, I was starting to play more country music. I first got into Hank Jr. Next, I discovered the great album, Poncho and Lefty, which was the beginning of a long love affair with the music of Van Zandt, Haggard and Nelson.
The other album that was featured in my regular rotation at the ranch was Almost Blue. I had been a huge Costello fan since the release of his first album My Aim is True in 1978. To my ear, he was the best thing to come out of the English punk/new wave movement of the 1970's. I am particularly fond of his anthem to everything Motown: Get Happy! It still sounds terrific today.
Costello recorded Almost Blue in Nashville under the direction of legendary producer Billy Sherrill. At the time, there was some criticism of a English punk rocker coming to Nashville to cover these classic country songs. I disagree. Although Costello's versions may not be any better than the originals, his singing is good and the band plays well.
The best thing about this album for me was that it opened the door to the music of all these great country artists. Hearing these cover songs, I immediately got intrigued with searching out the original versions.
I started listening to George Jones (A Good Year for the Roses), Merle Haggard (Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down), Patsy Cline (Sweet Dreams) and Gram Parsons (I'm Your Toy). This album was like a big Christmas present waiting to be unwrapped. If you are looking for an introduction to country music, Almost Blue is a good start.
It is available on iTunes and from Amazon.