Although he's changed styles about as often as Dennis Rodman's changed hair color, through every one of them Nick Lowe has remained the consummate pop craftsman, a sly humorist with a knack for the hook. His latest transformation, documented on the recent Dig My Mood (Upstart), finds him veering away from rock and dipping into adult balladry--which isn't as scary as it sounds. Lowe's "Faithless Lover" flirts with the brooding moodiness of French crooner Jacques Brel, and "You Inspire Me" is a thinly disguised remake of Nat "King" Cole's "Unforgettable," but most of the songs just bring Lowe's catchy white soul and roots rock down to a more civilized volume. (In a recent interview published in the Austin American-Statesman he admitted, "I like rock 'n' roll, but yes, the screaming my head off to a Nazi 4/4 beat--I think those days are over for me.") "High on a Hilltop" sounds like a lost Stax gem, and the cool lope of the old bastard's anthem "Man That I've Become" seems custom-made for Johnny Cash, who covered Lowe's even more self-deprecating "The Beast in Me." Dig My Mood isn't Lowe's finest effort, but live he's bound to dig deeper into his repertoire. The opening act is Spooner Oldham & Dan Penn, a pair of songwriters responsible for some of the greatest Memphis soul tunes ever, including "Dark End of the Street" and "It Tears Me Up." Tuesday, 7:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Eleanor Bentall.