Listening notes: Hey hey hey, old people are A-OK

If you’re keeping score, the artists’ ages here are, in descending order of quality: 66, 82, 83, 83, 68. That averages out to 76 – which I guess can teach us all something about how meaningless and misleading averages can be.


Bonnie Raitt
Dig In Deep

After coolly diagnosing a relationship rough patch as less a crisis than an “Unexpected Consequence of Love,” the sexagenarian sequential monogamist transforms “Need You Tonight” from a beefcake pop star’s distant tease to the kind of late-night sext that’s so urgent you can feel its ache in the blinking pulse of your phone notification. The pleasures that follow are less striking — a Los Lobos rocker, the righteous populism of “The Comin’ Round Is Going Through,” Bonnie pronouncing “sturm und drang”; the mood and groove are so familiar that you could almost be excused for overlooking her casual brilliance if 45 years of Bonnie Raitt albums shouldn’t have taught you better by now. A level-headed adult perpetually bushwhacked by her expansive potential for desire, Raitt remains a curious anthropologist of her own emotional states, her blues neither a historically calcified form to master nor a mystic well of ancient truths to revere, but a living language for grown-ups who want to communicate and negotiate their romantic and sexual needs.


Willie Nelson
Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin

He’s too damn old to bother stepping gingerly around the creaky floorboards in his voice, and his clinkers have their candid charms, augmenting a mood of autumnal longing on “But Not for Me” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” and contrasting nicely with his still fluent guitar. His sly “Ain’t Necessarily So” and nostalgic “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” are distinctive if not definitive. But the two duets are duds: Sheryl Crow, trying to Best Country Duo/Group Performance her way through “Embraceable You,” actually fares better than Cyndi Lauper’s wacky neighbor audition on “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” And though big sister’s piano does its best, my library’s already got all the “Summertime”s I need, thanks.



Loretta Lynn
Full Circle

Sassy old gal she may be (the opening banter has me wishing for more) but hand her a song that’s even older than she is — “In the Pines” or an A.P. Carter copyright (or two) — and Lynn grows unduly respectful, like she’s some mere folk singer rather than one of the (three? five?) greatest female country voices of all-time. Even hiding her light under a bushel, she’s in more robust form than when Jack White antiqued her on Van Lear Rose — love the way she effortlessly rhymes “harder” with “water” on the 12-stepper’s prayer “Water into Wine” and chomps “Always on My Mind” to glorious bits. The return to “Fist City” reveals that her voice hasn’t exactly sharpened with age, though. And “Who’s Gonna Miss Me?” is just plain unseemly.



Yoko Ono
I’m a Witch Too

Theoretically, the idea of the remix bridges the two stages of Yoko’s career: pop music and Fluxus conceptualism. By opening her material up to the creative input of others, she introduces an element of fortuity that complicates the idea of the finished art work, just as she did when she she was leaving printed instructions for gallery visitors in the ‘60s. But while art can be left to chance, pop can’t — the completed remixes here are forced to compete for your attention with original recordings that deserve much more of it. Only Sparks’ arty melodrama on “Give Me Something” detracts from the material; Dave Audé’s “Wouldnit” grooves, Blow Up’s “Approximately Infinite Universe” rocks, tUnE-yArds’ “Warrior Woman” bangs. But when it comes to the perpetual denial of artistic completion, 21st century style, Ono’s no match for Hericleezus of Tidal.



Iggy Pop
Post Pop Depression

An exhaustive investigation into the leathery legend’s history of studio collaborations confirmed my suspicion that while gals from Kate Pierson and Debbie Harry through Peaches and Kesha can jolt Iggy out of his posturing, bros are typically content to let Iggy ride shotgun on that same old cruise-controlled death trip he’s been commuting for years. As for devoted fanboy Josh Homme, he transports ’70s Berlin to the southwestern U.S. desert (very Vegas of him), his steady march tempo not even fast enough to be dull, giving I.P. way too long to think about what he doesn’t have to say in multiple modes – descriptive (“Your hourglass ass/ And your powerful back”), metaphorical (“as slick as a Senator’s statement”), and purposeful (“I’m gonna break into your heart”). It closes with the sort of rant against “information” and call for rectal laptop insertion you usually hear when a harried barista is forced to tell some weirdo that the restrooms are for customers only.

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