Michigan born Luke Winslow-King has made New Orleans his home since the age of 19, when his car full of musical instruments was stolen while parked overnight. Such inauspicious first impressions nonetheless forged a love affair, as Winslow-King found himself stuck in the city for an unplanned extended stay that became permanent by choice. He spent years busking on Royal Street and playing the clubs on Frenchman Street, steadily honing his skills and becoming a key figure among a new generation of young musicians sharing a reverence for tradition with a stylistic restlessness.
Winslow-King’s fifth album, I’m Glad Trouble Don’t Last Always, shows his adept hand as a slide guitarist and band leader while revealing as well the breadth and depth of his ongoing adaptations of the musical styles that flow along the rivers and roadways of middle America’s vastness. A solemn, lonely slide guitar opens the album, but the gospel-tinged vocals on “On My Way” bring uplift and set a tone for an album that conveys a message of perseverance through hard times. In the interim between the release of 2014’s Everlasting Arms and the beginning of work on I’m Glad Trouble Don’t Last Always, Winslow-King and his wife and musical partner, Esther Rose King, divorced. The resultant heartache echoes throughout the nine cuts here.
The title cut offers the reflection, “I may be sad and I may be blue / but one of these shining mornings I’ll forget about you,” then breaks into an almost martial beat before an angry, blistering guitar attack seeks to erase any sense of regretful feelings. Meanwhile, “Change Your Mind” presents a sequence of questions pondering just when the other lover’s devotion shifted. “Did you change your mind about me / Like the shift change at the factory?” he asks at one point, then later, with more vitriol, “Will you change your mind about me while he rolls you ‘round on the floor?” The latter line offers a good transition into “Heartsick Blues”, where acceptance starts to sink in. The light, almost hopeful harmonica accompaniment of the former song gives way to a mournful violin in the latter.
But acceptance brings the ability to look forward and rebuild. The sly, sexy “Esther Please” indicates a willingness to move on, or to at least get some joyful movement going in the moment, and “Watch Me Go” offers an all-or-nothing prospect from a singer tired of wasting time waiting for feelings to be reciprocated. The raucous, album-highlight that is “Act Like You Love Me” hints that the self-healing process has begun through some welcome Saturday night self-abuse and carousing. “Louisiana Blues” allows for the necessary exercise in self-pity and revenge fantasy before final acceptance can be achieved, while “No More Tears” reassures both the listener and the singer that everything’s going to be fine.
The primary characters of the drama will move on a bit sadder but wiser while listeners will be left with yet another sonic catalog of a love lost and mourned. But really, there can’t be enough of such song cycles when they’re done this well. Winslow-King hits all the musical touchstones between his adopted New Orleans home and his place of origin, referencing the electrified blues of Chicago, the soulful sound of Memphis, the harrowing gospel of the Delta, and, of course, the party blues of the French Quarter. On I’m Glad Trouble Don’t Last Always Luke Winslow-King continues to demonstrate his growth as a songwriter and entertainer capable of bringing new energy to time-worn Country Music tropes.