In the music department of my local Barnes & Noble where I work weekends, I’ve been asked a lot about the new Keith Richards album. And the answer I generally give these customers is that if you are a fan of his other two studio albums, this one is going to be your favorite of the three.
His last one, Main Offender, had come out back in late 1992, and three Rolling Stones albums have been released in that span of 23 years. But these thirteen new songs pretty much blow away anything not sung by Keef himself on Voodoo Lounge, Bridges to Babylon or A Bigger Bang, quite honestly. Produced by longtime associate and X-Pensive Winos drummer Steve Jordan, Crosseyed Heart is essentially everything you’ve loved about not only the Keith-led material on those three Stones albums, but both Main Offender and his classic solo debut from 1988, Talk Is Cheap, as well, pureed into a soulful wisdom that only comes with the unique way by which Richards is aging. “Trouble Is Your Middle Name” comes across like a sequel of sorts to Offender’s key single “Eileen”, while tracks like “Illusion” and the Replacements-esque “Nothing On Me” could easily be mistaken for Cheap -era outtakes. “Substantial Damage” comes across like Richards is as big of a fan of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as they are of him with a sly nod to longtime buddy Tom Waits, while closing number “Lover’s Plea” is as beautiful as if he had gone back in time to record it at Muscle Shoals in the Jerry Wexler era. Meanwhile, “Love is Overdue” continues to showcase Richards’ undying love for reggae, giving the Gregory Issacs chestnut a soulful, grizzled makeover.
Never mind the fact it’s been nearly a quarter century between solo records, Crosseyed Heart is an effortless artistic statement from one of the great architects of modern rock. If only the next Stones album will sound this great.