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Rolling Stones Stories

Keith Richards - 'Crosseyed Heart'

Keith Richards - 'Crosseyed Heart'

The heart and soul of The Rolling Stones returns with a grime and gravel-caked third solo album.

Keith Richards - 'Crosseyed Heart'

As the dad-snorting, drug-devouring, cop-dodging heart and soul of The Rolling Stones for 50-odd years, and the epitome of the hedonistic rock’n’roll survivor who’ll probably outlive Princess Charlotte, Keith Richards hardly has to prove his edginess credentials. You’d forgive him a studio-slick trad blues album, like virtually every other solo album from rockers of his vintage; he’s earned his ‘beige pass’.

And for a few seconds, that’s what we get. The opening title track of his third solo album, the first in 23 years, opens with some standard platinum rocker Mississippi blues twangles, but swiftly goes awry. Notes start plunking tinnily, cranky and unrefined, as if played on a guitar made out of scraps of corrugated swamp shack roof. Two minutes in it falls apart, Keith barking to his regular solo band the X-Pensive Winos “that’s all I got". It heralds a rock record as gnarled and lived-in as his rhino skin – 15 refreshingly ragged, down-at-heels tales of deadbeats, detectives and aging drugged shaggers.

At times it smacks of noirish American author Elmore Leonard. ‘Amnesia’ traces the bewildering state of a man “knocked on my head” so that “everything went blank/I didn’t even know the Titanic sank" in the style of Tom Waits mimicking Chris Rea. ‘Robbed Blind’ has Richards hunting down someone who’s stolen money from him – “the cops, I can’t involve them, god knows what they might find” – while the song itself commits daylight robbery on the beach sunset lilt of Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight’. There’s a grizzled smirk to these gritty fictions, and also to ‘Blues In The Morning’ which, from lines like “got a hard-on baby, but now it’s come and gone”, might well be the first ever barroom blues about Viagra.

There’s clearly still activity downstairs if the lusty struts of ‘Heartstopper’ and ‘Substantial Damage’ or the teen-surf concerns of ‘Trouble’ are anything to go by. But this varied hour is awash with gristly emotion too, in the stirring ‘50s whiskey bar soul croon of ‘Lover’s Plea’, the sultry duo of ‘Suspicious’ and ‘Just A Gift’ and the reggae swing of ‘Love Overdue’, on which Keith declares himself “a prisoner of loneliness”. Country, spiritual, rock both voodoo and drivetime; it’s a masterfully messy mash-up, yet the contemporary grime and gravel caking ‘Crosseyed Heart’ is quintessentially Keef.

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