J.D. Souther returned to record making after nearly 25 years with 2008's If the World Was You, a collection of jazzy originals. Three years later, he issues Natural History, consisting of new recordings of 11 of his most valuable copyrights, songs associated with the Eagles ("Best of My Love," "New Kid in Town") and Linda Ronstadt ("Prisoner in Disguise," "Faithless Love"), as well as his own sole hit as a recording artist, "You're Only Lonely." That's the "history" part of the title; the "natural" part refers to the arrangements, which are spare, usually featuring a prominent piano or acoustic guitar part with only quiet acoustic bass and drums (if any), and, sometimes, a trumpet, saxophone, or clarinet solo. That places the emphasis on Souther's high, slightly grainy, tenor voice, and on the lyrics and melodies. As anyone who recognizes the above song titles will realize, Souther's is a melancholy world view in which lonely people are desperate for love but unable to sustain it for long. The singer offers comfort, but he can also be a brutally honest observer of human emotional failings. Listeners will hear the echoes of the better-known recordings of these songs, even if Souther's own performances of them sound like they may have set the template for Ronstadt or the Eagles to embroider on.
A Natural History Review
by William Ruhlmann