‘We need to start worrying about the kind of world we are going to leave Keith Richards’ is a joke making the rounds this week, and like all good gags, it comes from a place of truth. Sort of. Richards’ longevity is legendary: at seventy one the man is still churning out records with the ceaseless Rolling Stones, while also dropping Crosseyed Heart, his first solo album in twenty three years. While his peers – those that are still around, that is – are suffering from late career malaise, Richards is powering onwards, and Crosseyed Heart buzzes with the energy, invention and creativity one would expect from a musician half Richards’ age.
Crosseyed Heart sees Richards making the kind of blues tinged rock n’roll that he has founded a legacy on, but the record never feels backwards-looking, or more of the same. Acoustic ballads like the titular track and Robbed Blind show off a stunning sensitivity, and their thrilling narratives, full of whiskey driven men and their mistakes, hits home particularly hard when intoned in Richards’ distinctive rumble. A cover of Leadbelly’s powerful Goodnight Irene similarly impresses, as Richards injects the tune with his own powerful brand of honesty.
Not to imply that the entire album is dour, or slow. Indeed, some of the stand out tracks are perfect examples of rock n’ roll in its purest form. Trouble and Heartstopper buck like mules, unravelling in a myriad of guitar licks and swathes of bluesy riffs.
Nothing about Crosseyed Heart is lazy or reductive. This isn’t a case of a musician lazily turning in an album in a desperate bid to stay relevant. Though it feels effortless in the best possible way, the love and care Richards has poured into the release is plain to see. In short, this is a masterful work from a true master.