Release Date: Jun 17, 2014
Record label: Yep Roc
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Album Rock, Rock & Roll, Bar Band
Some people do the same thing for years and dig themselves into a rut, and then there's folks like Ian McLagan who know their craft and keep getting solid mileage out of it year after year. McLagan has been playing tough but smooth, soul-satisfying R&B keyboards for close to 50 years, and he's as good at it as he's ever been; if you're looking for a good groove, McLagan's a man who can reliably deliver it, and that's what he does on his 2014 solo effort United States. Backed by his longtime partners the Bump Band -- Scrappy Jud Newcomb on guitars, Jon Notarthomas on bass, and Conrad Choucroun on drums -- McLagan doesn't draw a lot of sweat on United States, but the touch he and his band bring to these songs is superb, delivering an effortlessly pleasurable blues shuffle on "How Blue," cutting some moody funk that suggests a slowed-down version of the Faces on "All I Wanna Do," laying out some graceful midtempo rock as Ian contemplates a failing relationship on "Don't Say Nothing," or offering a sweet and generous lament on "Mean Old World.
In Ian McLagan’s autobiography All the Rage, he infamously admitted that during the ‘60s he’d “shag anything with a pulse”. So it’s no big surprise that the opening track “All I Want to Do” concerns doing the wild thing. After all, the British expatriate was inducted of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the term rock ‘n’ roll began as a euphemism for having sexual intercourse.
Ex-Small Faces/Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan has straddled the roles of frontman and backing musician since his first solo album appeared in 1979. Now on his eighth release, Mac has settled into a more reflective, rootsy groove removed from, yet still informed by, his more rollicking work both on his own and more notably with his formative bands. As befits his sideman status, McLagan is neither a particularly riveting vocalist nor songwriter — some of his lyrics are rudimentary bordering on simplistic — but he makes the most of his limitations by sheer heartfelt resolve.
Six years after mourning the death of his wife in a car accident on Never Say Never, Austin's renowned UK expat and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame keyboardist turns his wizened eye to romantic relationships in all their glory and sorrow. Despite the impossibility of not flashing back to Ian McLagan's Small Faces/Faces tenure whenever his warm Wurlitzer electric piano tone crackles to life on "All I Wanna Do," United States doesn't traffic in nostalgia. These are songs that feel lived in, where every scuff mark tells a story.
Credit Ian McLagan for continuing the trajectory initiated some five decades back with the Small Faces and later, the Faces, and also for maintaining a viable solo career that’s made him a mainstay of the Austin music scene. His new effort, recorded with the ever-reliable Bump Band, more or less affirms the MO he established early on – simple, concise and unassuming songs delivered with a reliable mix of tenacity and humility. As a keyboardist, McLagan’s not the smoothest singer – he sounds similar to Ron Wood and Keith Richards on those occasions when they take over the microphone – but he succeeds by default, whether deadpanning a smooth croon on “Mean Old World” or crowing with conviction on “Love Letter” and “Who Says It Ain’t Love.