Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets smartly merge their disparate musical styles and showmanship | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets smartly merge their disparate musical styles and showmanship

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Though at first glance the matching suits and Mexican wrestling masks favored by Los Straitjackets might point to the contrary, the Nashville instrumental rock group are anything but a one-note gimmick. If their novelties got your attention, more power to them, but with or without the visuals, Los Straitjackets do a fantastic job extending the legacy of late-50s instrumental groups such as the Ventures and the Fireballs. Led by guitarist Eddie Angel, last year they released What's So Funny About Peace, Love and . . . Los Straitjackets, a smart tribute to veteran musician, songwriter, and producer Nick Lowe—the band backed him on April’s Tokyo Bay/Crying Inside, and they've been touring with throughout 2018. Not only does the album prove the group to be a fitting counterpart for Lowe, it shows the durability of Lowe's melodies when reinterpreted as instrumentals. If there's ever room enough to change the arrangement of a song, Los Straitjackets will certainly find it: on "Heart of the City" they give a bluesy makeover to one of Lowe's more punk-flavored originals, while their take on "Cruel to Be Kind" transforms the original happy-go-lucky power-pop number into a Duane Eddy-style love ballad. And as anybody who witnessed the Lowe/Straitjackets show at Fitzgerald's last summer will recall, in a live setting Angel and company give the songwriter the kick his great material require. Tonight they’re ringing in the new year, so it might be just a little too late for them to perform anything from Lowe’s 2013 Christmas album, Quality Street—but it's not too late for a quality show.   v

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