Review: Austin City Limits Nick Lowe/Swell Season

Austin City Limits “Nick Lowe followed by The Swell Season”
Saturday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m.
Additional air dates: Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 10 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 6, at 11 p.m.
Preview the show at austincitylimits.org

As much as we love presenting new and promising acts on Austin City Limits, it’s great to have a veteran trodding the boards. Singer/songwriter Nick Lowe has earned that designation in his 40 years in the trenches of the music business. The Englishman began as a teen idol in the 60s band Kippington Lodge, which evolved into pub rock pioneers Brinsley Schwarz, for whom he wrote his enduring anthem “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.” Though not a punk rocker himself, the affable Lowe played a role in birthing the British punk movement through his production of the Damned, the Pretenders and, chiefly, Elvis Costello. In the late 70s he inaugurated a prolific solo career with his debut solo album Jesus of Cool and the British hit “(I Love the Sound of) Breaking Glass.” With cheeky roots/pop tunes like “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock ‘n’ Roll),” “All Men Are Liars,” the American smash “Cruel to Be Kind,” “Heart” and “When I Write the Book” (the latter through Rockpile, his band partnership with Dave Edmunds), Lowe continued as a respected songsmith and performer through the 80s. When the 15-million copy selling soundtrack included a Curtis Stiger-sung cover of “Peace,” Lowe even found himself (briefly) a millionaire. Since then he’s mellowed his sound into by, as critic Jim Farber observed, “ drawing on vintage country, soul and R&B to create an elegant mix of his own” on acclaimed albums like The Impossible Bird and The Convincer and songs like “I Live on a Battlefield” and “Lately I’ve Let Things Slide.” In celebration of his latest CD, the terrific At My Age, the indefatable Lowe brings his unparalled charm and bottomless bag of songs to studio 6A for the first time, and we couldn’t be happier.

Grammy recipients have appeared on Austin City Limits numerous times; it’s a rare thing for Oscar winners to grace the stage in studio 6A. But that is indeed the case as we welcome Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglová, also known as the Swell Season. After appearing in the film The Commitments, the Irish-born Hansard assembled his long-running band the Frames, who have released half a dozen albums since 1990. Encouraged by her father, the Czech-born Irglová started playing piano and guitar as a child. The pair met in Valašské Mezí??í, collaborating on the 2006 album named after one of Hansard’s favorite novels (and from which they took their name). The duo starred in the indie film Once, in which they played struggling musicians; both celluloid and CD soundtrack brought further acclaim. Then the song “Falling Slowly” – found on both Once and The Swell Season – was nominated for and ultimately won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, bringing wider attention to the pair’s lovely, finely crafted music. We’re happy to be part of their career’s upward swing.

- Michael Toland

About the Reviewer: Michael Toland is manager of national productions for KLRU and contributes music reviews to several online and print publications.