In my (probably) myopic view of rock 'n' roll Nick Lowe is one of the holy ten of English acts who have practiced that distinctly American idiom over a lengthy time with any conviction.
He knows how to rock out, has a fine sense of musical history, doesn’t seem to want to reinvent the wheel, doesn’t claim he invented anything new and, is respectful of the music's origins and is totally unpretentious.
What he has done is take a distinctly American music medium (without trying to water it down or make it Anglo-hip like Mumford and Sons do) and played with it to create something contemporary and relevant. He realises that the "sounds" are old but that (discerning) contemporary audiences don't care. His tales of young love are universal and transcend countries and generations. He had incorporated (as he always done) tales of England (here circa 1985) which are beautiful and come across, because of their musical idiom, as songs from American pop and rock n roll. An American rock 'n' roller would have no problem singing them. In his love of the American music idiom, with an English context, he becomes a relative to Ray Davies, Dave Edmunds, Alan Price, Eric Burdon and perhaps Robert Plant..
Of course Nick is well versed in Americanisms having lived there and been married (from 1979-1990) to June Carter's daughter (Johnny Cash‘s step daughter) Carlene Carter, also a country singer.
Nicholas Drain "Nick" Lowe (born 24 March 1949) and as a teenager he played in a bands, including Three's a Crowd and Sounds 4 Plus 1 with his friend, guitarist Brinsley Schwarz. In 1965, the pair formed the guitar pop band Kippington Lodge, which landed a contract with Parlophone Records the following year. Over the next four years, the group released five singles, none of which received much attention. In 1969, Kippington Lodge evolved into the country-rock band Brinsley Schwarz,
From there his career moved forward in an increasingly influential arc.
Allmusic: "As the leader of the seminal pub rockers Brinsley Schwarz, a producer, and a solo artist, Nick Lowe held considerable influence over the development of punk rock. With the Brinsleys, Lowe began a back-to-basics movement that flowered into punk rock in the late '70s. As the house producer for Stiff, he recorded many seminal records by the likes of the Damned, Elvis Costello, and the Pretenders. His rough, ragged production style earned him the nickname "Basher" and also established the amateurish, D.I.Y. aesthetics of punk. Despite his massive influence on punk rock, Lowe was never really a punk rocker. He was concerned with bringing back the tradition of three-minute pop singles and hard-driving rock & roll, but he subverted his melodic songcraft with a nasty sense of humor. His early solo singles and albums, Jesus of Cool and Labour of Lust, overflowed with hooks, bizarre jokes, and an infectious energy that made them some of the most acclaimed pop records of the new wave era. As new wave began to fade away in the early '80s, Lowe began to explore roots rock, eventually becoming a full-fledged country-rocker in the '90s. While he never had another hit after 1980's "Cruel to Be Kind," his records found a devoted cult audience and were often critically praised".
This was Nick’s 7th solo album and as a 20 year veteran of the music industry (as performer, writer, producer) he knows what he is doing. The 80s (with the discovery of new musical technology) wasn't always good for straight roots music but Nick has made it sound authentic and vibrant. There are also some alt-country, rockabilly and Americana sounds here which, naturally enough, fit in well.
For me, rightly or wrongly, my favourite albums usually contain one quater covers to three quarters originals (whether written by the artist or not). On the originals I find out whether you can write or perform original material but on the covers I see whether you can interpret someone else's song and make it your own. The latter may seem easier but isn't because you have to suffer comparisons which you don't have to with original material.
Lowe, picks his covers wisely. Great songs, done well with the right amount of Lowe humour.
The album not be as sharp as some of Nick's other works but he has set a high bar for himself and this album doesn't disappoint.
The album is produced by Nick Lowe and Colin Fairley with the exception of I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock & Roll) which was produced by Huey Lewis who also plays harmonica on it.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Darlin' Angel Eyes – (Nick Lowe) – excellent roots rock with some nice cheesy organ work. (that sentence is an Australian colloquialist's wet dream).
- She Don't Love Nobody – (John Hiatt) – John Hiatt wrote it but it seems that Nick was the first to record it. Subsequently it was a hit for the Chris Hillman’s country rock group The Desert Rose Band (#3 US Country 1989). A subtle and beautiful song with a gentle melody and catchy refrain.
- 7 Nights to Rock – (Henry Glover, Louis Innis, Buck Trail) – Originally recorded by Moon Mullican in 1956. The production is slick but the song's sexual implications "Seven nights or rock, seven nights of roll" with various girls is irresistible.
- Long Walk Back – (Lowe, Belmont, Carrack, Irwin) – an instrumental which is distinctly, and unashamedly, "old school"
- The Rose of England – (Nick Lowe) – a excellent song. It seems to be a response to the patriotic English song "Rose of England" by Ivor Novello. The gentle and catchy melody hides a lyric which is quite biting and cynical.
- Lucky Dog – (Nick Lowe) – a guitar driven mid tempo rocker.
- I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock & Roll) – (Nick Lowe) – first popularized by Dave Edmunds (on his 1977 album "Get It"). This is a great song but Edmonds version is best despite some nice organ.
- Indoor Fireworks – (Elvis Costello) – Lowe’s friend Elvis Costello recorded this on his “King of America” album from 1986. The acoustic verses work, the more produced chorus doesn't.
- (Hope to God) I'm Right – (Nick Lowe) – some nice world play in the lyric.
- I Can Be the One You Love – (Nick Lowe) – a country-isy love song with a bounce
- Everyone – (Leslie Ball, Gary Rue) – first done by Nick though covered by The Brilliant Mistakes in 2005.
- Bo Bo Ska Diddle Daddle – (Webb Pierce, Wayne Walker) – First released by Wayne Walker (1957), Subsequently done by the The Go Getters (2003). A nice slow groove.
Bring me a beer and my dancing shoes, in that order … I'm keeping it.
1985 I Knew The Bride Mainstream Rock #27
1985 I Knew The Bride (When She Use To Rock N Roll) The Billboard Hot 100 #77
She Don't Love Nobody
Nights to Rock
The Rose of England
I Knew the Bride – (When She Used to Rock & Roll)
live with Elvis Costello
with Elvis Costello and Robyn Hitchcock
doing Elvis (the proper one)
2007 full concert
- Lowe was also in Little Village (with Ry Cooder and John Hiatt) and Rockpile (with Dave Edmunds)