Over the course of his thirty-plus years in the music business, Nick Lowe has worked under many guises. There's "Basher," whose slap-dash approach to production helped define new wave through classics by The Pretenders, most famously, Elvis Costello. As "Jesus Of Cool," he displayed a mastery of pop styles on his early records like Pure Pop For Now People and Labour Of Lust. With Rockpile and Nick Lowe and His Cowboy Outfit in the 1980s, he redefined himself as a roots-rocker, providing the missing link, albeit an English one, between Gram Parsons and the alt-country movement.
Since 1994's brilliant The Impossible Bird, Nick Lowe has redefined himself as an acoustic singer-songwriter, cutting to the heart of relationships while retaining the genial sense of humor of his seminal work. His fourth studio record in 13 years, At My Age, finds Lowe, now 58, continuing the trend with extraordinary results.
Many of the best songs on At My Age deal with the redemptive powers of rediscovering love. This allows Lowe to look back on his past with his trademark wit while opening up emotionally. Only somebody as coolly self-effacing as Lowe could open an album with the lyric, "In my life I've done things I'm not proud of," and the song, "A Better Man," sets the tone for the rest of the CD with a country-soul shuffle worthy of Charlie Rich.
He continues this on the album's high point, "Hope For Us All," with a beautiful coda featuring the greatest use of the word "feckless" in a pop song since The Clash's "Rudie Can't Fail." I dare anybody to listen to this song and not get chills.
But he's also not at all afraid to turn his days as a ladies' man on himself. "I Trained Her To Love Me" shows him playing the cad, seducing unsuspecting women just long enough for him to get revenge on those who wronged him in the past. In someone else's hands, the singer would come across as a despicable misogynist. But Lowe is so damn charming that he pulls it off.