The Convincer

Last night, as I rode home from work, I listened to the podcast of Tuesday’s Fresh Air, which featured an interview with Nick Lowe. Oddly enough, on the ride into work that morning I had finished listening to Lowe’s interview and in-studio performance on Mark Lamarr’s God’s Jukebox show on BBC Radio 2. The Fresh Air episode is still available; the God’s Jukebox episode was from a few weeks ago and has disappeared from the BBC site.

I’ve always liked Nick Lowe’s work. There’s an interview with George Martin, in which he describes his first meeting with the Beatles and uses the word “charming” to describe his impression of them. Charming is exactly the right word for Lowe’s stuff. How, for example, can you look at this video for “Cruel to be Kind” without smiling at the wonderfully goofy charm of it? The fun shines through even the muddy sound and picture of the YouTube copy.

The music of Lowe’s songs often gets overlooked because his lyrics are so good, but what I like most about his songs is how they often go in surprising musical directions. On both God’s Jukebox and Fresh Air he performed some of the songs from his new album, At My Age, and most of them took an odd turn just as I was getting too comfortable with their structure.

Another thing that struck me about Lowe’s in-studio performances was how great he sounded with no backing band—just his voice accompanied by his own acoustic guitar. I don’t have the album, and I wonder how it could possibly sound as good.