Various Artists: Lowe Country: The Songs of Nick Lowe

Photo: Dan Burn-Forti

Good tunes for good causes, with great source material.

Various Artists

Lowe Country: The Songs of Nick Lowe

Label: Fiesta Red
US Release Date: 2012-09-18
UK Release Date: 2012-09-17

If nothing else, Lowe Country, the third Nick Lowe tribute album in 11 years (incidentally, the same number of full-lengths the man himself has released in that time) proves one thing: a wide range of artists love all eras of the man’s art -- from Brinsley Schwarz and New Wave to the mellower Brentford Trilogy –- and want to honor him. Most of the artists here are singer-songwriter types, which is to say, natural Lowe acolytes, occupying various slots on the twang continuum, running from JEFF the Brotherhood’s phased-guitar run through “Marie Provost” to Chatham County Line’s hoedown take on “Heart of the City”. Every artist’s heart is in the right place – and proceeds from the sales of the album go to the Nashville Rising Fund and the Central Texas Wildfire Fund – but, as with any tribute album, it’s funny to see what the absences of the guest of honor reveals about these tunes. (Of course, it helps that Lowe’s discography is chock full of great tunes; as Robert Christgau once noted, Lowe “could find a pop hook in a field holler.”)

Caitlin Rose sweetly swings on “Lately I’ve Let Things Slide”, but she can’t quite capture Lowe’s resignation; Amanda Shires turns “I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass” from (if memory serves) Lowe’s cheeky recollections of touring with Bad Company into something of almost ineffable melancholy. Meanwhile, Colin Gilmore captures the prayerfulness of “You Make Me” – it’s effective, but I wish Shires had tackled it instead. Griffin House hews close to Lowe’s closest flirtation with post-punk, “Crackin’ Up”, and Robert Ellis has a blast with “All Men Are Liars”... even if you’ll still shake your head at the Rick Astley-bashing opening verse. Lowe’s absence is mostly keenly felt, though, on “Heart of the City”. Chatham County Line’s version is fun enough, but drained of the Lowe’s sense of cultural and sexual thrillingness (“There’s a girl, my lord!”) on the unimpeachable, unimprovable original.

Looking at the tracklist of all three tribute albums, it may be time to give a rest to a few of these classics and dig deeper into the Lowe canon: surely, someone out there can give a fresh spin to, say, “Ragin’ Eyes”, “You’ll Never Get Me Up In One Of Those” or “I Live On A Battlefield”, none of which have appeared on a tribute album to date. Regardless of who is singing, or what they’re singing, on Lowe Country Nick Lowe’s wit, heart and humanity are always on display.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.