Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Perhaps after the series of excellence on his albums The Impossible Bird (1994), Dig My Mood ('98, Elsewhere's pick), The Convincer (2001) and At My Age (2007), it was maybe too much to expect the standard from Nick Lowe could remain as high again.
But The Old Magic -- while including some beautifully delivered bitter-sweet songs couched in country-influenced Fifties-like standards -- doesn't have quite the same frisson of delight.
As before he offers some wry explorations of aging (Checkout Time) and a flawed personality (Sensitive Man, "you can hear that in my song, but first impressions could still be wrong") and while Tom T. Hall's Shame on the Rain fits in seamlessly it is a lesser moment in the big picture of Lowe's recent albums.
House For Sale is a rumination on selling up after a marriage break-up but is grounded too much in the standard Cottage For Sale from the Thirties (see here) and the bright Restless Feeling and Somebody Cares For Me feel slight alongside some of the gems that are here.
And there are, of course, some absolute standouts: The lyrically probing opener Stoplight Roses is a classic Lowe ballad about a betrayer believing cheap, last-minute roses will heal the wound; and the beautiful, slow I Read a Lot ("much more than before you left me, high and dry in a loveless land with nothing but time on my hands") just pulls you in.
Elvis Costello's Poisoned Rose -- from King of America 25 years ago, almost a country standards these days -- is given a typically sensitive Lowe treatment, the closer 'Til the Real Things Comes Along is a pity-me heartbreaker ballad and there are excellent arrangements throughout.
So while this contains some fine Lowe songs and interpretations, this is not the best place to start your learning curve on Nick Lowe, and if you have already fallen for his considerable charms you may feel The Old Magic isn't quite there often enough this time.
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