Julian Lage: ‘Love Hurts’

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     Three-time Grammy-nominated guitarist Julian Lage once again shows us the potential of the electric guitar with his new album, “Love Hurts.”  Lage is a pioneer of the electric guitar. In a world where any sound imaginable can be produced instantly by pedals and digital effects, Lage has a different approach. A guitar and an amplifier. Simple, honest, raw.

     This is Lage’s third trio album, the first of which to feature bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King. “For me, this recording completes a trilogy of approaches to the trio,” says Lage. “They’re all similar but illuminate different fascinations.”

     The album opens with Pankow’s, “In Heaven.” A suspenseful guitar and bass intro, create a beautiful dissonance. Then all at once, the gain gets turned up. The three musicians lay down a heavy, soulful groove as Lage plays a bluesy riff that evolves into one of his mesmerizing solos.

     Lage has such a distinctive sound. He has built this signature tone around his Fender Telecasters, but he opted for a Gretch Penguin, owned by close friend Jeff Tweedy for “Love Hurts.” Still, this album doesn’t sound any less himself.  It doesn’t matter the gear he uses, there is an approach he has that is instantly recognizable. The tone exists in his fingers.

     The trio works as one organism throughout the album. King and Roeder create a pocket that Lage never loses. That being said, the album is a sonic rollercoaster. Throughout the closer track, Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” Lage’s guitar fluctuates between a soft whisper to a roar. This track is jazz meets garage rock.

     Lage takes on a different side of one of his originals, “Lullaby,” from his first solo album, “World’s Fair.” The recording from his first album is a solo acoustic piece. It is slow and elegant. It’s what the title says, a lullaby. This new take gives new life to the song. It is enchanting and rhythmically complex. It keeps you on the edge of your seat.

     My personal favorite track on the album is the jazz standard, “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.”  It’s a track that has been recorded dozens of times, but Lage offers something new to the table. The tempo is brought up from what it is traditionally played at. The way the trio bounces off each other is so fluid and smooth. Lage’s take is light and fun. It’s happy music.

     This album is a must listen. It’s the full spectrum, dark and moody to loose and colorful. Love may hurt but nothing about this album does.

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