Photo: Jim Herrington

Los Straitjackets: What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets

Nashville's premiere surf rockabilly instrumental band covers a bunch of Nick Lowe songs and it works so well you wonder why it wasn't done a lot sooner.
Los Straitjackets
What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets
Yep Roc

On the surface, an instrumental tribute to the music of Nick Lowe seems like an unusual project. Lowe — for my money, one of the greatest, most underappreciated singer/songwriters of the last 40 years — is known primarily as a wordsmith of the highest order. So why are Los Straitjackets, an impeccable surf/rockabilly instrumental combo, paying vocal-free tribute to the man?

For one thing, they’ve worked with Lowe in the past, backing him on a recent tour. They’re also label-mates (on the rootsy, artist-friendly North Carolina-based Yep Roc). A mutual admiration was obviously formed. Also, while Lowe has been justifiably praised for his witty, caustic wordplay (calling him the British, pub-rock equivalent of Randy Newman wouldn’t be off the mark), his gift for exquisite melodies should also be noted. And that’s where Los Straitjackets come in.

What’ So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets (which features cover art that lovingly apes that of Lowe’s 1978 debut album, The Jesus of Cool) makes the right choice of picking songs from all different periods of Lowe’s multifaceted career. Early tracks like the chugging surf boogie of “Shake and Pop” and the upbeat twang of “Heart of the City” are right in Los Straitjackets’ wheelhouse and are handled with predictable skill. Lowe’s modus operandi has always been to embrace simplicity in execution — sort of an anti-modernist — and Los Straitjackets understand that: performing their unique brand of guitar-based retro stylings with a deft hand while waving off any nods to current technology. The songwriter and band here are kindred spirits.