NILS LOFGREN "Sacred Weapon" Vision Music

Friday, February 17, 2006

NILS LOFGREN"Sacred Weapon"Vision Music

WHEN NILS LOFGREN opens his new CD with "In Your Hands," a relaxed country shuffle laced with grateful sentiments and a Dobro-tinted melody, you half expect his old boss Neil Young to saunter in and sing a verse or two. Instead, it's Willie Nelson who shows up, adding his quavering croon to the rootsy pairing. Another career-reminder surfaces during the anthemic "Come a Day" when Lofgren vividly evokes Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band by multitasking on guitar and keyboards.

Nelson isn't the only well-known guest. Lofgren and singer Martin Sexton team up on "Whiskey Holler," a world-weary lament that serves as the album's soulful interlude. Elsewhere, David Crosby and Graham Nash contribute harmonies to "Frankie Hang On," which concerns collateral damage on the home front during wartime. Besides being topical, it's one of Lofgren's most memorable lyrics.

The moods keep shifting, inspired by everything from an innocent, pattern-picking ode ("Comfort Your Love Brings") to a romping tribute ("Mr. Hardcore," dedicated to the late and legendary record producer David Briggs, who oversaw Young's early albums). It's no surprise that the ballads best suit Lofgren's tenor or that the rockers sometimes amount to little more than excuses to let off steam. But among the album's highlights is the brooding blues "You're Not There," a performance charged by some wicked electric guitar work.

As for Lofgren's strong ties to the Washington area, they're underscored by the support he receives from Timm Biery, Tommy Lepson, MaryAnn Redmond and old Grin-mates Tom Lofgren and Bob Berberich, among others.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Friday through Sunday at the Birchmere.

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