Keith Richards

"Cross Eyed Heart"

(Virgin/emi); Rock’n’roll

By ​Phil ​Bennett

Anyone keen on rough and ready rock’n’roll, reggae-tinged blues, country and folk, delivered with the simple dexterity of a man who embraces these elements as if they make up his own DNA, should make a beeline for this, Keith Richards’ third solo album.

The cover shows him smiling and relaxed, a mood reflected in his natural, organic approach to music making - and the fact that this is only his third solo album in 30 years.

And it’s due to this approach that Crosseyed Heart presents us with all of his strengths in one sensational stretch, the trick being that his limitations are what make up these strengths.

It’s all here - loose limbed arrangements, ragged rhythms, riffs harder than his skull ring and softer than a puff of smoke, tunes that wend slowly into your subconscious and a voice that works its range like a boxer dancing with his shadow.

Lead single, Trouble, demonstrates his unique ability to create a slice of pop with guitars flying around like hornets, unable to be pinned down to any actual rhythm or lead parts - his “ancient form of weaving” in action.

The ballads are just beautiful, honest declarations that are delivered with emotions unguarded, saying how things are without beating around the bush. It is what it is and they are what they are.

Robbed Blind, for example, is one of those Merle Haggard-style slowies that Richards immersed himself in while awaiting trial in the 70s. With his half-a-pack-before-breakfast voice leaning in your ear, he sings of losing both his wallet and his heart, with an affecting honesty that normally lies in the realm of the great country singers.

Elsewhere, Blues In The Morning is Chuck Berry in a barroom and even features soulmate Bobby Keyes honking away on the sax, while Substantial Damage is a splintering, sleazy guitar workout that celebrates the joys of open tuning, Keef-style.

Add to this, a solo acoustic blues in the title track, a lurching interpretation of Gregory Isaacs’ Love Overdue, and a psychedelic mish mash of thundering drums, ethereal self harmonies and eccentric stabs of guitar riffs in Heartstopper and you’ve got yourself just what you’d hoped for and more.

All expectations met.

Outstanding.

​Phil ​Bennett

Musician, actor, singer, music reviewer, Phil’s interests cover a lot of bases and this is reflected in the music he writes about. From blues to soul, ambient to electronic, Phil writes about artists he feels are interesting, true to their craft and worthy of your ears.