Record Review - 1 July 24 2002

Back when he was hanging with Elvis Costello and the Stiff Records crowd in the late ’70s, Nick Lowe helped define what was contemporary in pop music. These days, he couldn’t sound less in tune with the times. The Convincer, like Lowe’s two previous releases, swells with the kind of classic pop, blues, country and soul few bother with anymore.?

The man once known as the Basher sounds a bit mannered here. But flashes of his scabrous wit (“Has She Got a Friend?”) and wisdom (“Bygones (Won’t Go)”) still poke through, as he picks up the baton left by guys like Roy Orbison, Nat King Cole and Johnny Cash, and runs with it. His voice has gained nuance and character through the years, and as he sets it to work on the subtle, pained “Homewrecker,” where he sounds less like an aging British pub-rocker and more like a down-and-out Solomon Burke. Horns and piano swirl gently across “Lately I’ve Let Things Slide” and Lowe’s smooth-grooved cover of Johnny Rivers’ “Poor Side of Town” crackles with understated energy.?

There’s a wonderfully relaxed feel to The Convincer, as if the last thing Lowe needs to do is convince anybody of anything. It’s clear he’s worked hard to make it look this easy, pushing and pulling and yanking at these tunes until they seem to flow out of him like he was born with them on his tongue.?

Nick Lowe plays the Variety Playhouse Thurs., July 25.