Lowe’s ‘Magic’ Moment
Brit rocker may have mellowed with age, but his trademark lyrcial style still endures
Friday, October 7, 2011
If you go
What: Nick Lowe, in concert.
When: 8 p.m., Oct. 12.
Where: Aladdin Theater, 3017 S.E. Milwaukie Ave., Portland.
Cost: $32.15 through Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000 or ticketmaster.com.
Information: 503-234-9694 or aladdin-theater.com.
Nick Lowe may no longer be the “Jesus of Cool,” as the title of his first album labeled him, but he’s one of your hipper sexagenarians.
His latest album, “The Old Magic,” provides proof with an outstanding batch of 11 songs that even the kids should find fly.
Like other rock artists of his generation, Lowe has taken to crooning, but rather than rehash too-familiar elevator music, he wrote his own songs for “The Old Magic.” They’re a terrific reminder that the middle of the road is for more than roadkill.
The tunes are filled with clever lyrical twists, a trademark Lowe shares with old crony Elvis Costello.
“Prepare yourself for some blues to descend,” Nick Lowe warns on “Stoplight Roses,” the exquisite ballad that opens his new album. We probably didn’t need the warning. Since he rebooted his career with 1994’s “The Impossible Bird,” the 62-year-old Brit has eschewed the exuberant roots-rock and winking, ironic tone of his “Jesus of Cool” days for a mellower and more emotionally direct style that suits his dominant new persona — lovelorn and reflective.
Lowe mines that vein for more gold on “The Old Magic.” With originals like “House for Sale” (“Whatever happened to my happy home?”) and Tom T. Hall’s “Shame on the Rain” (“… for making me twice as blue”), he’s careful not to sound like just a mope.
The arrangements are nicely varied, with touches of the other Elvis, Burt Bacharach, countrypolitan and old R&B. Sam Cooke would have been at home on a couple of cuts.
Sad ballads predominate, but Lowe cranks up the tempo a few times.
He’s aided in that endeavor by a spare but resonant accompaniment, largely grounded in country-soul. Just in case, he does summon the old pep a couple of times.
“I’m 61 years old now,” he sings on the twangy toe-tapper “Checkout Time.” ‘’Lord, I never thought I’d see 30.” The old New Waver can still rock, even if it’s turn-back-the-clock rock.
That song and another, “Somebody Cares for Me,” break the languid pace, but they don’t really break the overall mood. While others are painting the town, the solitary singer, as he puts it in another number, reads a lot.