Exclusive ND First Spin: 'Lowe Country - The Songs of Nick Lowe'

by Kim Ruehl

Over the course of his entire career - whether with bands like Brinsley Schwarz and Rockpile, collaborating with John Hiatt, Elvis Costello, and Ry Cooder, or pursuing his own solo projects - Nick Lowe has proven to be one of the most versatile and influential artists to have touched the craft of songwriting. His music has run the gamut from country to rock and back again, but the influence he's made on contemporary Americana music is perhaps most notable. 

Recently, a number of the artists whose careers have been stirred by his influence recorded tracks for a tribute to Lowe's songwriting titled Lowe Country: The Songs of Nick Lowe (Fiesta Red Records, Sep. 18, 2012). When you consider the quality of the artists who volunteered for this tribute, the impact Lowe's music has made on the world becomes even clearer. Assembled here are such gifted artists as Amanda Shires, Robert Ellis, Chatham County Line, the Parson Red Heads, Lori McKenna, Ron Sexsmith, Hayes Carll, Colin Gilmore, all of whom use brilliant Lowe tunes as a launching pad for their own creative musical explorations.

 

Views: 1361

Comment by Easy Ed on September 25, 2012 at 4:47am

As tribute albums go, this one is pretty good. But I do want to mention something about how these things are put together, The assumptions that these artists were influenced by Nick's music or that they volunteered to appear on the album is romantically appealing but in most cases false. It's usually the concept of "this artist deserves a tribute album" that comes first, followed by the selection of a producer and then a wish list of artists is created and pursued. The reasons one asks this or that artist to participate usually are for the above assumptions; more often what you end up with is for different reasons. In some cases, there is no influence...a band is a friend of the producer or publisher, contracted by the label, willing to do it on the cheap or just plain available. Lots of time they have already done a recording that is sitting on a shelf gathering dust because it never made their own album. And there are also quite a few artists who readily aggressively peddle themselves to appear on any and all tribute albums possible, because it's a nice way to make a buck with little effort. Now the dirty little secret about most tribute albums is this: they are cheap to make, have a built in audience that are "completists" and their purchase alone usually will cover the costs. Anything else is profit. Before anyone takes me to the woodshed, I said "most", and not all. Many tributes are simply a labor of love (I believe that refers to both this one and the AMA's album of the year tribute of Guy Clark). And just because an album isn't conceived for purposes other than commercial potential doesn't make it neither bad nor wrong. It's always the end result that matters. Sigh...I'm done.

Comment by Jack on September 25, 2012 at 6:58am

Tribute records seems a dime a dozen, seems like everyone except BTO has had one.  Am unsurprised by Ed's insights.  On the other hand, this one is well deserved, Nick has fashioned one heck of a career for himself, very successfully making the transition from rocker to crooner, all underpinned by excellent songwriting.  Saw Nick solo acoustic in a club a few years back, he explained he was looking for a way to age gracefully in music, that'd he'd have felt a little funny being 75 and trying to bang out rock songs written in his 20's, which explains his sound since Dig My Mood, and maybe before that.  He also joked that a certain musician (I forget who) told him their own career would have gone further if they could only sing. Nick facetiously quipped that he hadn't let that stop him. I hope this record is good.

Comment by Easy Ed on September 25, 2012 at 7:07am

I think you'll like it Jack. With the exception of one track that stays close to the original, this is heavy on the interpretive, giving Nick's songs a fresh look. And if you dig pedal steel, well it's loaded.

Comment by Benjamin Lukoff on September 28, 2012 at 10:08am

Lowe Profile: A Tribute to Nick Lowe, which came out in 2005, was also a worthy effort. (I'd have linked to the label's store instead of Amazon, but their Web site design makes that, apparently, impossible.) Produced by Walter Clevenger, and featuring, among others, Foster & Lloyd and Dave Alvin.

I'm not as familiar with Labour of Love: The Music of Nick Lowe (2001), but there's that, too, with Dar Williams, Graham Parker, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello... really, almost every artist on this one is quite well-known.

Looking forward to hearing this new one.

Comment by Leland Sundries on September 28, 2012 at 1:35pm

Love it!

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.