Various Artists

Lowe Profile: A Tribute to Nick Lowe

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Nick Lowe is the sort of artist whose work as a musician, songwriter, and producer is so unpretentious and straightforward that many folks tend to overlook how strong it is, and how diverse his repertoire has been. From the hippie-friendly country rock of his early recordings with Brinsley Schwarz and the straight-ahead pub rock of Rockpile to the engagingly smart-assed pure pop of his early solo work and the mature blue-eyed soul of Dig My Mood and The Convincer, Lowe writes and sings with simplicity, clarity, wit, and an emotional weight that has caught the attention of plenty of folks who know good music when they hear it, ranging from Johnny Cash to Elvis Costello. While Lowe Profile: A Tribute to Nick Lowe isn't the first Nick Lowe tribute album, it certainly outclasses 2001's Labour of Love: The Music of Nick Lowe, largely thanks to its lineup of contributors -- most of the artists on Lowe Profile are roots rockers and pop mavens who obviously know and love Lowe's music, but also bring their own flavors to the performances, and along the way testify to the diversity of his material. The bluesy growl of Eric "Roscoe" Ambel's "12 Step Program (To Quit You Babe)" and the twang-infused "Never Been in Love" from Rick Shea and Christy McWilson demonstrate how Lowe's records have caught many different ears, while Kim Shattuck's bare-bones reading of "You Made Me" sits next to the frantic rock of "I Don't Want the Night to End" from the Lowe Beats (Scott McCaughey's Nick Lowe cover band) and both sound right as rain in this context. (Other participants include Ian Gomm, Dave Alvin, Steve Wynn, Foster & Lloyd, and Duane Jarvis.) Sparkle*Jets U.K.'s "When I Wrote the Book" is the only performance of the 30 here that sounds slavishly devoted to Lowe's original recording, which says a lot about Lowe Profile and the people who helped make it -- this isn't a bunch of slapped-together covers, but a heartfelt tribute to a musician whose talent and attitude has made a real impact among people who love music; if it makes you want to pull Pure Pop for Now People or The Impossible Bird off the shelf, it also doesn't sound woefully inadequate in comparison, and that's no small thing.

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