Elvis Costello seems to delight in changing his musical colors every few years. The now 50-year-old former punk rocker has made a diverse career for himself, his output including everything from jazz to soul, country to reggae to swing. Costello's strongest songs to date are featured on the rock album, The Delivery Man.
Elvis Costello says the title track to his CDThe Delivery Man is based on a story he heard about a man who had spent most of his life in prison. This person, given the character name of Abel, was incarcerated for relatively minor crimes, but had committed so many that he had accumulated a life term in jail. Well into his prison term the man admitted to committing one more crime: The murder of a childhood friend.
Many of the songs on this album relate to the character of The Delivery Man and his effect on the lives of three women: Vivian, her friend Geraldine, and Geraldine's daughter Ivy. On the CD, Emmylou Harris voices Geraldine. She sings on three of the album's tracks, including "Nothing Clings Like Ivy." The song is touching on it's own, but knowing that Emmylou is singing about her character's missing daughter gives the song even more meaning.
Lucinda Williams is another guest on The Delivery Man. She sings the part of Vivian, and throws herself into a duet with Elvis Costello called "There's A Story In Your Voice."
While many of the songs on The Delivery Man concern the Abel character, others, including "Bedlam", and "Needletime", were written after Costello contemplated real-life current events. And then, there's "Monkey To Man," Elvis Costello's New Orleans-flavored twisted tale of evolution. In it, a monkey in his cage contemplates everything that man's achieved and squandered.