Talk about chutzpah! Asbury Park-based alt-roots rockers Lowlight bravely entitled their new EP “Born to Run.” But Chrissie Hynde and Danny Clinch love them nonetheless, having booked them for an East Coast tour and another stop at Transparent Gallery.
If you read this column regularly, then you know I am a huge fan of Lowlight, winner of the 2016 Makin Waves Band of the Year and 2017 Female Artist of the Year for lead vocalist-rhythm guitarist-lyricist Renee Maskin. And now that they have demonstrated the chutzpah to call their EP, Born to Run, I love Lowlight even more. The Asbury Park-based synth-textured alt-roots rock band recently made up T-shirts that react to the brave tongue-in-cheek title with the hilarious self-deprecating slogan, “You’ll never work in this town again.”
While that may be true to some Springsteen diehards still rockin’ the City by the Sea, it’s not for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, who once again tapped the multi-racial male-female unit to open for her, having done so last year at Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank and Terminal 5 in New York City. This time out, their relationship has expanded with an East Coast tour that kicked off March 25 in Miami and continues March 30 at the Basie; March 31, Tower Theatre, Upper Darby, Pa.; April 1, Orpheum Theater, Boston, and April 2, Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown. The tour coincides with the release of Born to Run, which makes for a tasty treat in between their brilliant 2016 LP, Where Do We Go from Here, and their next full-length.
This just may be a coincidence in relation to the four-song EP’s title, but Dana Sellers’ keyboard playing recalls the late E Streeter Danny Federici, especially the carnival atmospherics of the opening “Sleep Wounds” and the sadly sweet organ on the closing epic “Birdman’s Last Ride.” On the dichotomy of the seemingly futile but searingly optimistic “Sleep Wounds,” the Dylan-influenced Maskin particularly mines her mentor with a sense of well-worn wisdom and cryptic poetics. “Sleep Wounds” is the first of two tracks that feature the poly-rhythmic pair of drummer Colin Ryan and guitarist-percussionist Derrill Sellers, who also produced, recorded, mixed and mastered the all-too-brief collection.
However, brief is not “Birdman’s Last Ride.” The 10-minute experiment features bird calls and wood tones in the midst of a sonic garden that in addition to the aforementioned organ sounds, harvests pretty piano plucks, ambient keyboard drones, and pulsing, earth rhythms, while a wash of ghostly guitars climb like ivy.
Sandwiched are two more tasty tracks: the live favorite “Can’t Stop Now” and the Celtic-tinged “Nights and Weekends.” Polyrhythms are even more prevalent on the stand-out “Can’t Stop Now.” They propel a slithering tangle ‘n’ mash of spirited guitars throughout, as well as a bright splash of keyboards in the break. I also love the descending whirl of the keyboard right before that break.
Fellow songwriters and Americana artists will enjoy “Nights and Weekends” with its rootsy sound and relatable tale about trying to make ends meet as an original music act forced to remain independent by a disinterested and slowly dying music industry. But there’s nothing dead about Born to Run. It’s a vibrant, intricately made record that should make the Boss proud, along with anyone else from New Jersey who has good taste in music.
If you couldn’t get tickets for the sold-out Pretenders show at the Basie, seats were available at press time for Mayo PAC. You also can see Lowlight back in two tiny but mighty venues that will elicit a swift transition for the returning road warriors. On March 31, before they head to the Tower Theatre, they’ll play a matinee with Matty Carlock and Earnhardt at Danny Clinch Transparent Gallery in their hometown of Asbury Park. After The Pretenders tour and a quick jaunt down to Baltimore for an April 7 set at the Metro Gallery, Lowlight will be back on April 8 at the Scarlet Pub in New Brunswick with Snailmate, Community Center and Joe Galuppo, who played harmonica for the band throughout the Pretenders jaunt.
STREAM “Nights and Weekends”:
Bob Makin is the reporter for www.MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.