Over the past few years Blabber’n’Smoke has grown to expect great things from Lowlands. An Italian based band they’ve steadily built up a fine reputation with 2012’s Beyond an excellent Springsteen type album while main man Edward Abbiati delivered a tremendous collaboration with Chris Cacavas earlier this year on Me And The Devil. Love etc. finds Abbiati and the band in a more reflective mood as they ponder on those old perennials, love and loss, a mood influenced by Abbiati’s personal circumstances but, as has happened elsewhere, leading to a peak in the artistic process.
It seems that following on from some emotional knocks Abbiati wrote the title song, an attempt to dump the ballast and resurface and then built the album around this resurrecting songs he had written previously that fit into the theme of loss, bereavement and abandonment. Initially the album was acoustic but a live show with a horn section led to several of the songs being recorded in a single session with the band augmented by the horns. The end result is an album that recalls the loose limbed approach of The Basement Tapes as the band spin woozily throughout the songs with spiralling steel guitars, wheezy harmonica and parped trumpet and trombone fleshing out the sound. While some of the music portrays a sombre mood as on the cello clad You And I and the stripped down Can’t Face The Distance the majority of the album is like an exorcism of bad times as the songs sway and swing with abandonment and the horns are used to flesh out regret or joy.
The opening song, How Many, sets the scene perfectly as the band, curled lap steel and all are enveloped by the horn section who evoke an old fashioned and faded grandeur. This is intensified in the following title song as the horns sound like the Salvation Army and Abbiati swings like a New York troubadour in the seventies with wisps of Tom Waits and even Billy Joel sneaking in. I Wanna Be continues in this vein with Abbiati singing “I walk the streets at night/Try to find me a little light/I learn me a Dylan tune/Then I howl it to the moon.” As he sings this a clarinet homes in recalling Gershwin’s NY threnody creating a bit of a chill. You, Me, The Sky & The Sun uses the horns to create a devil may care attitude, a woozy stagger that is revisited on Happy Anniversary. The happy go lucky country jaunt of Wave Me Goodbye and the joyous trot that is My Baby lift the mood of the album suggesting that despite the clouds there’s some sunshine in Abbiati’s mind.
Overall Love etc. isn’t a gloomy album. There are moments that soar and tear at the emotions but at times there’s a tremendous ramshackle buoyancy about it, no more so than on the excellent Doing Time which sashays along with a winning swagger. There’s even a hint of the late sixties Dylan honey voice on Still I Wonder while the tender Goodbye, Goodnight , with only guitar, voice and accordion serves as an excellent sign off. Almost a lullaby in style it says goodbye to the past with some affection. Above all, it’s a warm, enveloping comfort blanket of an album, one to be savoured. And in case the above is somewhat long winded Chris Cacavas pretty much sums it up on Lowland’s website where he says “This album is fucking good. The best Lowlands yet?”