Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Masks: Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets

[purchase The Quality Holiday Revue (Live)]
[purchase What's So Funny About Peace, Love And Los Straitjackets]
[purchase other Lowe/Los Straitjackets music]

A few years back, we did an “Unusual Collaborations” theme, and had Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets been working together back then, it would have seemed to fit right in. But what is more surprising is that their collaboration actually has worked so well and so seamlessly.

Lowe, of course, has proven to be an incredible musical chameleon. He’s done pub rock, punk, new wave, power pop, country, roots music, standards, holiday music and more. He’s a songwriter, a producer, a singer, a leader, a sideman, and instrumentalist. Los Straitjackets, since their formation in the late 1980s, have been an instrumental band playing rockabilly influenced surf-rock. But beyond the quality of their music, what most people know about Los Straitjackets, if they know anything about Lost Straitjackets, is that they perform in Mexican wrestling masks. Why, you ask? Apparently, they wore them at their first gig, and the crowd loved it, so they just kept doing it.

A few years back, Lowe was performing shows focusing on his more country crooner songs, but after the death of drummer Bobby Irwin in 2015, he broke up that band. When Lowe wanted to tour behind his holiday album, his record company suggested label mates Los Straitjackets as a touring band. Eventually, Lowe insisted that the band play his songs as if they were their own, and he’d just fit in. This collaboration allowed Lowe to pull out some of his old rockers again for subsequent tours, and they have released a bunch of songs together. And in 2017, Los Straitjackets released an instrumental album of Lowe covers, entitled, What's So Funny About Peace, Love And Los Straitjackets.

I got to see them perform together last year at the great Tarrytown Music Hall, and it was a great show. The video above, of the whole show was taken by someone in the audience (not me), and you can see how it was structured—A set with Lowe leading the masked Los Straitjackets, a set with just the band, ending with a Lowe cover, and another set together. For the encore, the band returned first, playing tribute to their fellow masked man, Batman, before Lowe rejoined, and then a final encore of a solo Lowe covering his friend Elvis Costello.

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