Music Review: Nick Lowe's At My Age

by Jeff Siegel

Nick Lowe has been writing three-minute pop songs for so long and in so many styles that his career seems almost impossible. His first band, Kippington Lodge, shared a record label with The Beatles. He has been on hand for country rock, punk and new wave, rockabilly, and Americana. He gave Chrissie Hynde her start, played in a supergroup with John Hiatt and Ry Cooder, and produced two albums for Johnny Cash’s step-daughter.

So what’s so odd about his new record, the aptly titled At My Age? Nothing really, for anyone who has been paying attention. Lowe goes Countrypolitan on this one, mining the Nashville sound of the 1960s and early 1970s that produced Ray Price, Patsy Cline, and Floyd Cramer. But this is not your grandparents’ Countrypolitan, the commercially-driven, cash-jingling music that drove Willie Nelson so crazy that he let his hair grow and invented outlaw country (check out the album cover of 1962’s …and Then I Wrote, in which a clean-shaven Willie is almost unrecognizable). This is more tasteful, more ironic, and a whole lot more fun; call it Lowe-apolitan.

Lowe has been drifting in this direction since 1994’s The Impossible Bird, which featured “The Beast in Me,” a notable cover for Cash. But Lowe never embraced the style in quite the way he does here. This is his best album of material in a more than a decade, without any of the lesser songs that marred Impossible Bird, 1998’s Dig My Mood, and 2001’s The Convincer. Lowe covers Countrypolitan’s Faron Young with "Feel Again," reinterprets the rockabilly standard "A Man in Love," and throws in nine original songs. "I Trained Her to Love Me," a typically Lowe piece of tongue in cheek (about a cad who breaks women’s hearts because he can) has garnered most of the attention, but "A Better Man," "Long-Limbed Girl," and "Not too Long Ago" are fine additions to the Lowe canon.

What is also significant about At My Age is that there is nothing on this record to remind listeners of punk or new wave Nick, nothing even that sounds like his country rock days with the much underappreciated Brinsley Schwarz. He has cast off his past. This, after 42 years in the record business, is as impressive as it is difficult to do. But what else to expect from someone as talented as Nick Lowe?

(The cover of Nick Lowe's At My Age is from Yep RocRecords. To hear "The Club" from At My Age, along with a visual retrospective of Lowe's record covers, please check below.)

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Chaya Thanhauser said...

and he's playing a show at a bookstore in NYC!

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