"I'm sticking my head above the parapet right now because I have a record out, but usually I'm rather a retiring type," says Nick Lowe. Retiring, perhaps; but stylistically promiscuous nonetheless. Lo
"I'm sticking my head above the parapet right now because I have a record out, but usually I'm rather a retiring type," says Nick Lowe. Retiring, perhaps; but stylistically promiscuous nonetheless. In the decades since his high profile days recording for Stiff Records and producing the likes of Elvis Costello in the '70s, the 58-year-old English rocker's albums have tried on new wave, country and R&B inflections. His latest, "At My Age," is no less eclectic.
Released in the U.S. on June 26 by Yep Roc after a June 4 European release on Proper, "At My Age" was recorded "in drips and drabs, due to my circumstances. I kept getting knocked out of the groove." Those "circumstances" and the album's title refer to the fact that Lowe was a new father during the writing and recording process. His son Roy is 2 and while he's enjoying parenthood, Lowe observes that working has been something of a light relief, and despite moving to a bigger property in west London, he has kept his old address so he has a place specifically to write and jam with his bandmates.
Lowe's latter-day style might be miles away from his time as a Stiff Records artist, or producer of Elvis Costello and the Pretenders, but amid pithy new compositions like "I Trained Her To Love Me" and "HopefFor Us All," he still makes room in his live set for 1979 hit "Cruel To Be Kind" and the ever-anthemic "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding." That blend of old and new was underlined recently during an outstanding June 7 performance at London's LSO St. Luke's Church. The show, like the album, featured a guest appearance by veteran jazz giant Chris Barber, and "People Change," another "At My Age" highlight, included a guest vocal by the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde.
Of the album's 12 songs, nine are Lowe originals, but he's made another careful selection of lesser-known covers, including Faron Young's "Feel Again" and Charlie Feathers' "The Man in Love." "I'm really astonished by the amount of fabulous music, primarily in the States, [that came out] between the end of the war and about 1975," he says. "There's masses and masses of brilliant music which most people never get to hear, and every time you think you've heard it all, hey presto, somebody else turns up.
"But it's very hard to find songs that people haven't heard before that I can do and turn into something," he continues. "I hear billions of great records, but sometimes a great record isn't necessarily a great song. So I'm always on the lookout for songs I can use and actually make them sound like I wrote them. And my own songs, I try to make it sound like I didn't write them."
The publicity blitz for the album includes a July 16 appearance in the U.S. on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," and a July 20 U.K. broadcast of the June 7 show on BBC Four. He has also confirmed a date at London's Royal Festival Hall Oct. 23, following a pair of shows in Belgium and Holland.
Lowe may be popping up in a lot of high profile places lately, but "as far as how I'm regarded, I don't think I'll ever be a mainstream artist because of the way my records are," he muses. "I really like the hand-made feel [of] them, and that makes the general public nervous. My stuff sounds like it might fall to bits in the middle. But the people who get it, really get it."
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