Recorded on a boat in the South Pacific in 12 days, and interrupted by a surprise on-board renewal of his wedding vows, you might expect that Dave Stewart has a few tricks up his sleeve with the release of Lucky Numbers. You might speculate how partying and seasickness ate into the recording schedule; The former at least has left some telltale marks on the playback. Yet, for all that, Stewart’s third solo offering in as many years is a very conventional album. It’s lined with well-crafted songs littered with familiar melodic signposts from country, rock, and blues, and played with exemplary élan by the core group of Nashville musicians that graced the previous two records. It’s all so impeccably held together by the ringmaster himself, you can almost smell the camaraderie that wafts through the 12-song set.
Lyrically, Stewart explores the notion of chance and how it runs through love and life, changing the course of things on a whim. Musically, most songs here are honed to the absence of indulgence, perfectly formed and executed so that when Stewart does let his charges off the rein, it becomes jamming on auto-pilot. The fuck-up at the start of the Dylanish “How To Ruin A Romance” is left in, perhaps to underline that this genius writer and his immaculately conceived band are human after all. You could similarly check the self-congratulatory hollering at the end of “Why Can’t We Be Friends”.
Stewart surfs musical channels with panache, blending a Pet Shop Boys groove with straight country rock in the Martina McBride duet, “Every Single Night”, which has its radio-friendliness stretched beyond six and a half minutes, and throws in some Eurythmics references in the mix. The languid, lazy drawl of “Nashville Snow” showcases a mellower turn, with Karen Elson playing Stewart’s foil, while the tender “You and I” stands out for its Lennon-like phrases. Whether it’s learning hard lessons about drugs, speculating on the fates, or toying with introspection, the prolific Stewart has been there, done that, and has the wardrobe of T-shirts to prove it. The sheer professional polish that Stewart brings to this record, like all his work, will delight and inspire, but music can be this good and still leave you feeling a little flat.
Essential Tracks: “Every Single Night”, “Nashville Snow”, and “You And I”