With Jason and Dave in the 416 for the weekend we were sure to hit its best two indie record stores, Soundscapes and Rotate This! in downtown. I had been anxiously waiting the last couple of weeks to pick up Nick Lowe’s first CD in six years, “At My Age” on Yep Roc. Even the typical Canadian $16.99 price tag didn’t dissuade me at our first stop, Soundscapes. Firstly, I’ll defer to the usually excellent All Music Guide to frame my few comments:
This is music that doesn’t merely flow smoothly; it has a grace uncommon to roots rock, partially because Lowe is deeply rooted within soul, country, pre-rock & roll pop, blues, and jazz, giving his latter-day music a real classicist feel, but it never gets sleepy due to that charming delivery and impeccable craft.
Lowe’s vocal delivery has always been impeccable, but his last four albums, representing his shift from pub rock to Americana has brought his delivery to the fore. It’s a kick just to listen to these songs. Always the gentleman, writing with substance, yet flair, Lowe has aged gracefully since his days of Rockpile and hits such as 1980s “Cruel to be Kind” and the songwriting credit to Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.” The later fortuitously was covered on the umpteenth-selling soundtrack to The Bodyguard, assuring Lowe would have the luxury of aging (and recording) so gracefully.
On 2001’s wonderful The Convincer, Lowe recorded one of my favorite songs of the last decade with “Indian Queens,” a catchy diddy reminiscing of years squandered after leaving home at age 18; on a freighter bound for Panama; working for a couple in Yellowknife, Canada; and finally working the rigs off of Galveston, TX. Despite his charismatic English persona, someone you would expect to find at a London pub, Lowe writes with an unabashed love of American music and style. Much like Robyn Hitchcock, Lowe is an artist with perhaps a larger following in North America and Lowe plays on that in singing about a return to the ironically-named Indian Queens, an English town in Cornwall. Lowe commented on its unlikely English location (“it’s actually in England, but the name always struck me”) while performing in 2001 at the Birchmere in my birthplace, Alexandria, Virginia.
For “At My Age,” Lowe returns with a beautiful soundscape of relaxed, innately poppy tomes of reflection. There are stories of love lost, “People Change,” and the always furtive possiblity of new love, even for its most skeptical, “Hope for All of Us.” There are also the usual Lowe-esque tales of the past, typically of women, such as “Long Limbed Girl.” Without sounding cliched, Lowe muses, “Where are you now? Well I wonder about you, and if you have made it through and had all your dreams come true, now, or has it been a long and bumpy road, Long-limbed Girl?” Lowe also covers the soul group The Unique’s classic “Not Too Long Ago” with his plaintive style that makes its feel like his own, while at the same time paying homage to the original.
No song could be more true than, “People Change.” And rarely does the damn truth sound so good.
I’m out. I’m going to the Griddle with Simon.