Sunday, April 13, 2008

Nick Lowe -- At My Age (2007)

Nick Lowe -- At My Age (Yep Roc)

Lowe’s approach since 1994's The Impossible Bird is verging on formula. But when the result is records as good as this one, I have no problem with formula.

Lowe mixes ‘50s rock balladeering, countrypolitan pop, and ‘60s R & B, while alternating some straightforward songs with his usual wink-and-a-nod cleverness. This fits his crooning vocals. And Lowe doesn’t waste notes. Each song gets enough time to work its magic and then moves on for the next swell track.

There are nine originals and three covers here, and without looking at the credits, I’d defy you to tell which songs are Nick’s. Heartbreak is the main topic here. Sometimes it leads to defiance, as illustrated by the blues “I Trained Her to Love Me”, where the Nickster brags about dating women, building them up, and then dumping them. The old “do onto others before they can do it to you” thing. Usually it leads to disappointment, but misery loves company, as Lowe invites everyone along to join “The Club”. This is a great piece of slow rockabilly with a killer bridge.

Lowe glosses up on “Love’s Got a Lot to Answer For”, with it’s melancholy horn accompaniment and one of Nick’s most soulful vocals. Speed this up a bit, it probably has a Sam Cooke lilt, but it works better slower. The wallowing is all the more sublime.

The horns are also on hand for the perfect ‘60s soul of “Hope For Us All” (as in “even if I can find someone/there’s hope for us all.”). But no matter how beaten down Lowe has been, he dusts himself off and tries again.

His scheming is endearing on “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day”. Endearing is really a good word to describe this whole album. Lowe is making perhaps the best music of his career, by going back to the basics, retaining his personality and adding a lot of heart.

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