The unassuming, almost professorial, chap staring at you from the cover of this album doesn’t give a hint of the sparkling old school country tinged melodic rock he’s packaged within the cardboard. Starr, from Colorado, has a hefty pedigree under his belt with five previous albums and a lengthy list of acts he’s supported or played with, several of whom turn up here including Richie Furay, John Oates and Steve Cropper. The album ranges from classic guitar driven freeway friendly songs to fiddle and mandolin rich ballads, suffice to say if the likes of Poco, Steve Stills, JD Souther, Andrew Gold and even Fleetwood Mac (circa Rumours) floats your boat then you should lend your ears to the 15 songs on offer here.
The title song opens the proceedings, a radio friendly riff of a song sparked with soaring guitar breaks and some snarly lap steel that keeps it grounded, there’s a muscular heft in the rhythm section and keyboards. It’s classic FM fodder, the Eagles and even Boston recalled as Starr sings with confidence. Secrets, a co-write with John Oates (who provides harmonies), is another song that, had it been released back in the days, could now be a staple of retro radio. It’s supremely melodic in the Fleetwood Mac manner with a winning guitar break and an excellent middle eight featuring some fabulous harmonies. Starr turns in several other songs in a similar vein, the aching Called It Love, a Jackson Browne like drama with Steve Cropper adding some sinuous guitar lines and Our Mistakes which glistens with some Byrds like guitar flourishes.
The album is finely balanced with a brace of introspective numbers and some rootsy ramblings. Long Ride Home is a cosmic cowboy lament, an intricate lace of slide and electric guitar with mandolin and accordion it’s a valedictory to life on the road and beautifully delivered. What Do You Recall is a stripped down piece, piano and fiddle and voice only as Starr peers into a memory of a love, a song that is painfully wonderful, like a love song to a dementia sufferer if that’s not supposing too much. Memory also features on the slinky and slick night-time blues of Afraid as Starr revisits his past while The Beautiful Music Of You (featuring Furay on harmonies again) is a simple love song with a hint of sadness provided by mournful viola.
The rootsiness shines through on the Dobro and accordion driven Acadian rhythms of You Will Come To Know and the jaunty harmonica led skip of No Time Like The Present. However the crowning glory here is Starr’s rendition of Tumbleweed, a song written by Canadian Tia McGraff. With a grumbling and growling guitar underpinning some sweet mandolin and fiddle playing along with some very sweet harmonies (courtesy of Tania Hancheroff) Starr here recalls the luminous sound of Emmylou Harris on Wrecking Ball.
Love and Sabotage is an excellent album and the good news is that Starr is currently touring the UK although he’s performing solo. However, on the strength of this he seems well worth seeing. He appears in Glasgow as part of the Southside Fringe on Thursday his other dates are here.