All These Strangers
Label: Hear Music
Costello made his name as a pub rocker, but for National Ransom it feels like his heart has strayed -- and that's a good thing. Even though he's singing ragtime, roots and bluegrass, this is still the Elvis we know and love. The best songs feel as if they've always existed: the 1920s ragtime "A Slow Drag With Josephine," the deliciously dark "You Hung the Moon," "Bullets For the New-Born King" -- basically, any song that takes Costello out of his comfort zone. The rock numbers, on the other hand, sound a bit stale. National Ransom could be half as long and just as good.