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"Live in Austin" Review
by David Fricke
Rolling Stone, 1 March 2001

4 stars
Ronnie
Lane
Live in Austin
SIDEBURN

When Ronnie Lane died in 1997 after a twenty-year battle against multiple sclerosis, he left behind a trail not of tears but of smiles. A pint-size package of Cockney sunshine, Lane -- in the 1960s with the Small Faces, then with the boozy, bluesy Faces -- wrote or co-wrote such jewels of mod bounce as "Itchycoo Park," "Lazy Sunday" and "Ooh La La." After leaving the Faces in 1973, he spiked his East London pep with a country-folk tang -- part Music From Big Pink, part Yorkshire village pub -- in solo treats such as "The Poacher" and "Kuschty Rye."

Live in Austin features unplugged-style radio shows from the late 1980s, when Lane was living in Texas and gigging with the cream of the local players, and it is touching proof that even in his darkening years Lane maintained a stalwart cheer and work ethic. There are cracks of exhaustion and moments of slippery pitch in his voice in the seafarer's memoir "Barcelona," written in 1976 with Eric Clapton, and in "Nowhere to Run," a song of stoic elegance from Rough Mix, Lane's 1977 album with Pete Townshend. The tender prayer of gratitude "Just for a Moment" is taken from Lane's last-ever radio appearance and reveals his advancing mortality with devastating honesty.

But Lane wasted no time on self-pity. In the two versions here of "Ooh La La," he sings about the high price of his raving days with a radiant fatalism. In "Rio Grande" (titled "Bomber's Moon" when Lane sang it on the 1983 A.R.M.S. benefit tour) and the cantina-rock arrangement of Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell," you can hear Lane, clearly invigorated by the love and chops of his young Austin musicians, freely stirring Texas grit into his alehouse-country sound. And in his finest song, "The Poacher," Lane states his philosophy of life with earthy, magnetic ooh-la-la against a punchy accordion and the chipper glide of Susan Voelz's violin: "Well, I've no use for riches/And I've no use for power/And I've no use for a broken heart/I'll let this world roll by." The world is a lesser place without Ronnie Lane. Do not let these songs roll by with him.

 

 

 

 


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