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At My Age

Nick Lowe

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Album Review

There's a certain winking resignation to the title of Nick Lowe's At My Age, as if it were designed to be spoken with a soft, knowing sigh. Now in his late fifties, Lowe is hardly running away from his advancing years — quite the contrary, the singer/songwriter is comfortable in his skin and his years. Certainly, he's comfortable in his music, since At My Age marks the fourth time that he's mined the intimate, well-worn country-rock vibe of The Impossible Bird, and if at this point it no longer is a revelation, it's hardly lost its appeal, either. Part of that lies in Lowe's ever-potent charm — not for nothing did he call the last album The Convincer, since his smooth delivery is slyly seductive — but his latter-day insistence on a mellow mood can make it easy to take his skills for granted, since all the records share the same vibe. But to overlook an album as exquisitely crafted as At My Age is to be a fool, because nobody does this kind of relaxed Americana as well as Lowe, who is still writing songs that stand proudly alongside his previous classics. For instance, there's "I Trained Her to Love Me," a song as wickedly witty and bitterly self-loathing as "Cruel to Be Kind" or "The Beast in Me," a tune that's balanced by the wry new-love anthem "Hope for Us All," which has its share of gently funny lines but is nevertheless a ringing, sincere endorsement of love, worthy of the man who wrote "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?" And that's always been one of Lowe's greatest gifts, that he is possessed with rare humor but also a big heart, which is what gives his music great resonance.

That's certainly true of At My Age, where he eases between songs that mask their broken hearts beneath quips and casual sophistication (witness "People Change," a deceptively bright tune about how lovers fall out of love) and sweet love songs ("Rome Wasn't Built in a Day," a song that turns a cliché inside out without drawing attention to itself), but there's so much warmth within how Lowe plays this material that it's hard to think of any of these songs as sad, no matter how much melancholy may run beneath the surface. This, of course, is one of Lowe's hallmarks, but the remarkable thing about At My Age is how Nick still finds new wrinkles within his deep love of American music, whether it's how he interprets classic rockabilly on Charlie Feathers' "A Man in Love" or country on "The Other Side of the Coin," or incorporates loose New Orleans horns on the delightful "Long Limbed Girl." This is music that doesn't merely flow smoothly; it has a grace uncommon to roots rock, partially because Lowe is deeply rooted within soul, country, pre-rock & roll pop, blues, and jazz, giving his latter-day music a real classicist feel, but it never gets sleepy due to that charming delivery and impeccable craft. As evidenced by the six-year gap between this and The Convincer, it takes time to make music as effortless and elegant as this, to construct songs this finely detailed. It takes work to sound this comfortable, so it's only appropriate that At My Age may seem unassuming upon first listen — but only seems better and deeper with each spin.

Biography

Born: 25 March 1949 in Woodchurch, Suffolk, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

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,...
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