Nick Lowe, The Old Magic

Sam Adams

By Sam Adams

on 09.13.11 in Reviews

As a rule, age isn’t kind to purveyors of power pop, but the albums Nick Lowe has made throughout the last decade and a half are a powerful argument for growing old with grace. On The Old Magic, Lowe enters his seventh decade with characteristic wit. “Checkout Time” contemplates mortality, not imminent, but not so far off, from the perspective of a man who’s already gotten more than he expected. “I’m 61 years old now/ Lord, I never thought I’d see 30,” he sings over a roadhouse shuffle that invokes the appeal of past masters without slavishly copying them.

The Old Magic has a veteran’s ease, from Lowe’s clipped croon to the way he extends, but never forces, the titular metaphors of “Stoplight Roses” and “House for Sale.” Lowe has always been a stylistic chameleon, slipping smoothly from one suit to the next and never letting the wrinkles show, and he’s trying on some particularly loud numbers here, like the male chorus and harp glissando opening to “Restless Feeling.” But he stops short of mere camp, delivering his homages with a fond wink, not a nudge in the ribs. It feels like he’s drawing on his own history rather than trying to incorporate others’, retracing a long and fruitful journey through a life filled with and defined by music.