Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Any self-respecting Rolling Stones fan can tell you that some of the best deep album cuts the band has ever released are ones penned and sung by Keith Richards. His two solo albums have aged pretty well also, which makes Crosseyed Heart, his first solo turn in 23 years, a pretty welcome arrival for those starved for fresh Stones content.
Richards’ new set covers the ground you’d pretty much expect, but never goes through the motions in doing so. Whooshing rockers like first single “Trouble” and “Heartstopper” mix easily with fetching after-hours ballads like “Illusion,” a duet with Norah Jones, and “Lover’s Plea.” There’s the obligatory nod to reggae in “Love Overdue,” and outlaw anthem“Nothing On Me” falls into line with like-minded Stones tracks like “Before They Make Me Run.” Nods to his forerunners, including the Robert-Johnson-aping acoustic title track and the cover of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight Irene” also abound.
The collaborators here include old buddies like Steve Jordan, Waddy Wachtel and Bobby Keys, who added his inimitable sax to a couple tracks prior to his death last year. When you get an album’s worth of Richards, you start to hear some of his underrated qualities come to the fore, such as his knack for arranging backing vocals to buffer his growly leads for maximum soulfulness.
At fifteen tracks, the formula could easily have run stale were it not for a couple of sneaky surprises. “Robbed Blind” combines a Latin lilt with Larry Campbell’s steel guitar to undergird an idiosyncratic tale of love and larceny. And Keith ups the energy (and his vocal range) for the shouting romper “Blues In The Morning”, doing a passable Little Richard. “Torn at the edges but really, really loose inside,” the narrator sings on that last track, which is as good a description as any for not just Crosseyed Heart but its resilient creator.