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Ian McLagan And The Bump Band's "United States" Reviewed

Left with the debris

Left with the debris

I listened to United States early this year and I thought it was a steady as she goes, swinging rocking little album, self-effacing without being down in the mouth; it has a rockabilly tumble, and a smart sloppiness worthy of the great Face and 70s piano player par excellent Ian McLagan.

And then Ian died.

So I went back and listened to United States again and now it sounds like a steady as she goes self-effacing rocking album with an air of impossible to bear poignancy. The Small Faces seemed hell bent on dying early, Ian was just 69 years of age, Steve and Plonk much younger, and only Kenny is still kicking. But their deaths aren’t the usual rocker by misadventures and Ian had his life settled down in Austin, Texas, a much loved member of the music scene.

This manifested itself in a strong keyboard based set of rockers, the intro to “Mean Old World” is plainly lovely, “Who Says It Isn’t Love” is chomping to break out, and “Sha La La” waiting for a “le” to break out and raise hell.

The ballads, and really everything here is a mid-tempo jaunt, are equally great. The beautiful rockabillyish, or do I mean a sort of London Americana, “Love Letters” with a heartbreaking, Ian’s wife had died in a car crash six years earlier, “the only thing missing is you” he sings with a catch in his voice and it sounds like he might cry any moment. It is a relation to “Debris” (which he performed with a vibrant hand on the heart when I saw him at Joe’s Pip a coupla years ago)  the way “Shalala” is a relation “Sha La La La Le”. It covers a similar sort of mood.

If United States is a minor work, it is minor in the same way all aging is minor, in the same way Jerry Lee’s current Rock And Roll Time is minor, it is minor because we older people are minor. But for Ian, the piano playing is sturdier and obviously McLagan and the mood is tinged and I know this is hindsight because I couldn’t hear it before, with a summation but not of life, of the moment.

Ian could’ve left us with a lot worse.

Grade: B+

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