Elvis Costello's "country record" is usually written off as a vanity project, but Almost Blue is quite a bit more than that. It's one of the most entertaining cover records in rock & roll, simply because of its enthusiasm. The album begins with a roaring version of Hank Williams' "Why Don't You Love Me" and doesn't stop. Costello sings with conviction on the tear-jerking ballads, as well as on barn burners like "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down." It's clear that Costello knows this music, and it's also clear who he learned it from: Gram Parsons. Costello covers Parsons' "Hot Burrito No. 1" and "How Much I Lied," and all of the music on Almost Blue recalls Parsons' taste for hardcore honky tonk and weepy ballads. It's to Costello's credit that he made a record relying on emotion to pay tribute.