Nick Lowe
"At My Age"

(Yep Roc 2007)Nick Lowe - At My Age

"Pure Pop for Now People," the title of Nick Lowe's first solo album in 1977, would also be an apt mission statement for what he's been trying to make over the last 30-plus years. Never has he had more success in this regard than with his two previous studio records, 1998's "Dig My Mood" and 2001's "The Convincer." Both records connect a straight line back to the best circa-1960s pop, soul and country, and on the strength of brilliantly wrought songs, vocals and arrangements, they create a sound that is both contemporary and timeless. If only there were more people making pop music like this.

Fans of Lowe's recent work should be pleased with "At My Age," as will those who have enjoyed his earlier forays into straight-up country. While "At My Age" has much in common with its two latest predecessors, it mixes a stronger hint of the vintage Nashville Sound into its palette.

"A Better Man," one of nine Lowe originals, starts off the album, and it's the type of song that any number of earnest country crooners could have cut 40 or 50 years ago (Ray Price and George Jones immediately come to mind). It also introduces the album's main theme - that of a morally compromised man inspired to do better by a woman. But it is one of a few songs on the record that fail to take flight; the sickly horns sound as if they're synthesized, the unremarkable melody constricts Lowe's vocal phrasing, and it has an awkwardly abrupt ending. Other minor disappointments include a Lowe original that implores romantically distraught men to join "The Club," and a dated-sounding cover of The Uniques' "Not Too Long Ago." These three tracks are hardly unlistenable - they just don't measure up to the high standard Lowe has set for himself lately.

The balance of the album doesn't always measure up to that standard either, but there are several brilliant moments. "Long-Limbed Girl," a reminiscence that is ostensibly about Lowe's ex-wife, Carlene Carter, is a bright, sunny pop tune with a robust horn section. (In addition to being more country than any recent Lowe records, "At My Age" is also more up-tempo.) "Rome Wasn't Built in a Day" is one of Lowe's most endearing songs of seduction, detailing his plans without his tongue planted so firmly in cheek. "The Other Side of the Coin," with a very stylish jazz arrangement, entreats the listener to judge him not by the word on the street (which, if we are to believe him, isn't highly favorable), but by his deeds. Lowe's sense of humor and patented brand of cynicism are still intact on "I Trained Her to Love Me" and "People Change," the latter of which features a backing vocal by old pal Chrissie Hynde. Lowe also has a knack for spot-on cover song choices as is evidenced here by a rousing version of Charlie Feathers' "A Man in Love."

This, as well as most other Nick Lowe albums, is recommended to all mature listeners with romantic inclinations and refined palettes.

B+

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