Nick vs. Don

by Matthew Curtis
April 23, 2008 2:54 AM
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Yes, but has Lowe ever played a disenchanted, alcoholic Broadway composer teaching at a summer theater camp for talented teens like Dixon did in Todd Graff's 2003 musical comedy, CAMP? Check out this clever piece that appeared in Raleigh, North Carolina's The News & Observer--especially timely considering the acclaim for the recently released new R.E.M. (and all the comparisons to their early work), and the new Elvis hitting stores today.

Craig D. Lindsey
Lowe and Dixon: The matchup

For your consideration: Is Don Dixon the American Nick Lowe? Or is Nick Lowe the British Don Dixon? Let's go to the video tape.
•After playing in regionally successful bar bands (Dixon's Arrogance in Chapel Hill to Lowe's Brinsley Schwarz in England), both men produced key albums for future hall-of-famers -- R.E.M. for Dixon, Elvis Costello for Lowe.
•As bass players, support roles come naturally to both. Not coincidentally, each has had success writing hits for others. In 1992, Curtis Stigers' cover of Lowe's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" appeared on the mega-massive soundtrack to Whitney Houston's "The Bodyguard," while Joe Cocker had a worldwide hit with Dixon's "I Can Hear the River."
•Both have a quirky sense of humor that sometimes manifests itself in oddball album-title puns -- witness Dixon's "(If) I'm A Ham, Well You're A Sausage" and Lowe's "The Abominable Showman."
•Dixon appears on the 2005 Lowe tribute album "Lowe Profile."
•Both are unafraid to deal with adult themes. A few years back, Dixon put out a song called "All I Wanted," sung as an angry lecture by an 85-year-old man. And Lowe's latest album is a crooning set of classy country soul titled, fittingly enough, "At My Age" (Lowe is 59, Dixon 57).

"A lot of the similarity is we're close to the same age and influenced by a lot of the same records," Dixon says. "He was making cheap records in England at the same time I was making cheap records in the U.S., both of us trying to capture some of the things we liked about old records. I love the records he's doing now, too, although he's way more grown-up than I am."

Touring behind "At My Age," Lowe plays Wednesday at the Carrboro ArtsCenter. Dixon has a new album recorded with his wife Marti Jones just out, "Lucky Stars: New Lullabies for Old Souls," and another on the way called "The Nu-Look" -- which should be out by the time he plays Raleigh's Berkeley Cafe on June 13.

I must say--I've liked both of these guys for a long, long time, from their producing credits to their own bands and solo recordings. Nick was featured prominently in the outstanding BBC music doc, IF IT AIN'T STIFF, IT AIN'T WORTH A FUCK: THE STIFF RECORDS STORY, which had its US Premiere at the 2007 Florida Film Festival, and I got to see him perform solo at the World Trade Center site this past September. I still get choked up thinking of his rendition of "What's So Funny..." Don and Marti haven't been to Central Florida in ages, and they are sorely missed. Any publicity these talented and important artists can get is wonderful--may they keep rockin' for years to come.

--Matthew

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