Nick Lowe

The Old Magic

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Unlike many rockers, Nick Lowe has no quarrel with growing old. Once middle age hit, he happily abandoned any aspiration of chart success, choosing to settle into an elegantly old-fashioned groove carved out of American country, soul, and pre-Beatles pop. All these elements fell into place on 1998’s Dig My Mood, and 2011’s The Old Magic is his fourth successive LP minted from that mold. To say there are no surprises is no surprise: this nattily tailored roots music sounded comfortable from the outset and since Lowe sees no need to tinker with a formula that works, The Old Magic feels familiar upon its first play, lacking even the light surprises of the limber “Long Limbed Girl” from its predecessor, 2006’s At My Age. Lowe rarely picks up the tempo here, coming the closest to a getting a skip in his step with the cheerful shuffle “Somebody Cares for Me,” and he’s ironed out every remaining twang, so The Old Magic is carefully pressed and smooth, not one hair out of place. Nick would benefit from getting his feathers a little ruffled -- just a smidgeon of the lean country-rock of The Impossible Bird would go a long way -- yet there’s still plenty of charm in the old crooner, whether he’s singing an old Tom T. Hall tune or writing originals as wryly observed as the self-deprecating “Sensitive Man,” the post-breakup ballad “I Read a Lot,” and “Checkout Time,” a meditation on mortality set to a Johnny Cash beat.

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