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Various Artists

Lowe Country: The Songs of Nick Lowe – 2012 (Fiesta Red)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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There's been no shortage of Nick Lowe tributes over the years...and deservedly so. Aside from his ample skills as a producer, performer and overall auteur, he remains a remarkably prolific songwriter whose catalogue has become popular fodder for other artists and admirers over the past 40 plus years. In the process, he's successful transitioned from a rootsy, post-punk rock 'n' roller into a well-weathered and revered Americana artist who frequently tempers his insightful observations with nothing less than a wink and a nod.

As a result, it ought to be noted that this particular collection focuses on "Lowe Country," as opposed to the cheery pop approach that inspired many of the others. Not that the rockers are excluded entirely; Marie Provost, Heart of the City, Cracking Up and I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass - all take on a drastically different demeanor in the hands of JEFF The Brotherhood, Chatham County Line, Griffin House and Amanda Shires respectively.

Indeed, it's a tribute to both the resonating power of Lowe's songs and the talents of the participants themselves that the majority of this material doesn't hew to a cookie cutter standard, but instead creates a distinctive impression all its own. Then again, it's also credit to Lowe's evolving stature as an elder statesman of sorts that such esteemed luminaries like Caitlin Rose, Robert Ellis, Lori McKenna and Ron Sexsmith elected to take part, testifying to the fact that Lowe's prevailing sentiments are ultimately affirming, infused with humor and humanity.

Like the best homage, "Lowe Country" is really a teaser, a set of songs that encourages the listener to delve into the originals instead of concentrating solely on the covers. Lowe and his legions deserve kudos, because here in "Lowe Country," expression is encouraged for all.