Ian McLagan & the Bump Band / Ian McLagan

United States

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Some people do the same thing for years and dig themselves into a rut, and then there's folks like Ian McLagan who know their craft and keep getting solid mileage out of it year after year. McLagan has been playing tough but smooth, soul-satisfying R&B keyboards for close to 50 years, and he's as good at it as he's ever been; if you're looking for a good groove, McLagan's a man who can reliably deliver it, and that's what he does on his 2014 solo effort United States. Backed by his longtime partners the Bump Band -- Scrappy Jud Newcomb on guitars, Jon Notarthomas on bass, and Conrad Choucroun on drums -- McLagan doesn't draw a lot of sweat on United States, but the touch he and his band bring to these songs is superb, delivering an effortlessly pleasurable blues shuffle on "How Blue," cutting some moody funk that suggests a slowed-down version of the Faces on "All I Wanna Do," laying out some graceful midtempo rock as Ian contemplates a failing relationship on "Don't Say Nothing," or offering a sweet and generous lament on "Mean Old World." McLagan is a better instrumentalist than a singer (and his skills on the organ and piano remain subtly top-notch), but on United States, time has given his voice just enough grit that it matches the hard-won lessons of his lyrics, and he sounds honest, soulful, and indomitable on these sessions. Ian McLagan is a lifer in the best sense of the word -- this music is his life, and he's probably going to keep doing it as long as he draws breath -- and he's good enough at what he does to keep a real spark in his music a few decades after he first joined the Small Faces. McLagan's easy but powerful groove makes United States another satisfying episode in the life and career of a true rock & roll believer.

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