Nick Lowe The Old Magic
It’s been a pleasure over the past two decades to see Nick Lowe settle into his late-career role as a grizzled, puckish roots-pop balladeer. Every few years, Lowe pops back up with another elegant, understated album full of gentle, witty songs, neatly arranged and performed with reassuring calm. The Old Magic continues the streak. Opening with “Stoplight Roses”—a stately, Roy Orbison-style ballad, barely adorned—The Old Magic sticks to basics throughout its 35-minute running time. On “Checkout Time,” Lowe contemplates mortality at a slow gallop, in a style that resembles a skilled rockabilly band loafing through a sound check in an empty concert hall. On “I Read A Lot,” Lowe considers the pros and cons of solitude at a slow, dreamy pace, backed by lush strings. “Restless Feeling” is a starry piece of cocktail tropicalia, like the theme song to a UK Love Boat. And so on, song after catchy song. Some of Lowe’s moves are a little pat, but none are unwelcome. The Old Magic doesn’t burn with invention like Jesus Of Cool or Labour Of Lust, but it’s a cheery reminder that the pilot light is still on for one of the brightest songwriters of the ’70s.