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Album Review: Lowe Country: The Songs of Nick Lowe by Various Artists
Fairly Good, Based on 5 Critics
PopMatters - 70 Based on rating 7/10
If nothing else, Lowe Country, the third Nick Lowe tribute album in 11 years (incidentally, the same number of full-lengths the man himself has released in that time) proves one thing: a wide range of artists love all eras of the man’s art—from Brinsley Schwarz and New Wave to the mellower Brentford Trilogy –- and want to honor him. Most of the artists here are singer-songwriter types, which is to say, natural Lowe acolytes, occupying various slots on the twang continuum, running from JEFF the Brotherhood’s phased-guitar run through “Marie Provost” to Chatham County Line’s hoedown take on “Heart of the City”. Every artist’s heart is in the right place – and proceeds from the sales of the album go to the Nashville Rising Fund and the Central Texas Wildfire Fund – but, as with any tribute album, it’s funny to see what the absences of the guest of honor reveals about these tunes.
This country-fried tribute to the tunes of revered and resilient English songwriter Nick Lowe is for a good cause—proceeds from its sales go to benefit victims of the 2010 Nashville floods and Texas wildfires of last year—and for that it should be commended, but as a record, it leaves much to be desired. Over his 40-plus year career as a musician and producer, Lowe has proven himself as one of rock’s most adept songwriters. I mean, the man wrote ”(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” for God’s sake; there is certainly no shortage of material here.
This isn’t the first Nick Lowe tribute album — 2001’s Labour of Love with contributions from higher profile acts such as Tom Petty, Marshall Crenshaw and Graham Parker beat it by 11 years—but it’s the first to feature primarily acoustic, country and roots interpretations of his songs. Because of a noticeable lack of recognizable names contributing Lowe covers, the scope of this 14 track set is considerably more modest, but no less enjoyable. These aren’t Lowe’s biggest hits since there’s no “I Knew the Bride” or “Cruel to Be Kind.
It takes no great leap of the imagination to picture Nick Lowe the subject of a country-oriented tribute album. Ever since Kippington Lodge traded in their flared trousers for flannel, turning in their Yes 45s for Band LPs, and renaming themselves Brinsley Schwarz, Lowe has specialized in roots rock, taking a boozy, speedy detour during the punk era but returning to the '80s and never leaving it behind. The artists on Lowe Country: Songs of Nick Lowe largely stick to songs Nick wrote during his august third act as a dignified crooner or revamping Stiff-era ravers into down-home stompers, but the Brinsleys' "Don't Lose Your Grip On Love" is given a nicely mournful reading by the Parson Red Heads.
So many variables determine whether a tribute disc succeeds; the artist honored, the acts and songs chosen. On local imprint Fiesta Red, Lowe Country assembles a healthy dose of neo-Americana types covering UK pub rocker turned crooner Nick Lowe. Unfortunately, more often than not, the results are "genericana," disposable alt.country that's interchangeable with a dozen similar acts.