Keith Richards’ first solo album in twenty-three years, ‘Crosseyed Heart’, paints a portrait of an artist who will let no man or coconut slow him down. Richards shuns the clamour for modernity that confused and marred The Rolling Stones’ most recent albums. Richards may not have any modern sounds to offer the world on ‘Crosseyed Heart’ but he has plenty of good ones to offer instead. Richards understands that as long as humans have feelings there will be a need for the rhythm of the blues.
The album’s title track is a porch blues noodle in which Richards plays the jilted man with a crosseyed heart. The track ends suddenly with him proclaiming “That’s all I got!” However, this isn’t the day he runs out of steam – far from it. What unfolds is an accomplished journey through folk, blues, country, reggae, and rock ‘n’ roll, with Richards as our musical polygamist tour guide of his Crosseyed Heart.
At 71 years old he may not be as prolific as he once was, but he’s still a master artisan with age-defying physical dexterity that can still crank out a 12 bar blues, a 3-chord shuffle and a solo, with the vigour of a man who still wants to make you do the hip shake, baby. See Heartstopper, Trouble, Amnesia and Substantial Damage for evidence.
Vocally, Richards sounds like a hoarse Tom Petty at times, with a hushed gravitas in storytelling mode on Robbed Blind, Nothing On Me, and Suspicious. Love Overdue sees ‘Crosseyed Heart’ successfully tip its toe into reggae, whilst at other times Richards pays homage to the singers who originally turned him on to rock ‘n’ roll music in the ‘50s, on tracks such as Blues in the Morning.
The album’s low points come in the form of Goodnight Irene, the story of a newly married man with second thoughts after the fact, and Illusion, a duet with Norah Jones, where the interplay between the two voices isn’t dynamic enough to pull off the narrative of the love story.
While ‘Crosseyed Heart’ doesn’t quite meet the standards of Tom Petty’s ‘Hypnotic Eye’ it’s certainly better than anything The Rolling Stones have done since (and probably quite some time before) 1994’s ‘Voodoo Lounge’. You can be sure this won’t have gone unnoticed in the Jagger, Wood and Watts households. ‘Crosseyed Heart’ is very much an album that proclaims, “I’ve still got it, have you?”