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Peace, Love and Understanding Nick Lowe

There are more than 40 versions of the song, including the Springsteen/Pearl Jam performances at 2004 Vote for Change concerts and most recently an exquisite gospel/blues version by the Holmes Brothers.

"Just as I thought that song has been sung every way -- I've got unbelievable covers of it in Swahili, a black choir in Harlem doing it unaccompanied -- when I thought it was difficult to do a straight reading of it, or bring anything else to the party -- I heard that beautiful version by the Holmes Brothers and thought, ' This is really something.' "

Costello, whose cover remains the best known, paid Lowe the ultimate compliment, eschewing his own stellar songbook to perform the song during his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.

"That was really sweet of him," Lowe says. "He's a lovely guy, and we've been friends for a long time. I don't see him as much these days because he works so hard -- a damn sight harder than I do! I'm very proud of the records we did together -- we managed to do some good ones."

These days, when Lowe and Costello do get together, they're as likely to be talking about kids as about music. Several years ago, the rakish and rambling Lowe began a committed relationship, and two years ago, at age 56, became a father for the first time. In 2003, Costello married jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall, who gave birth to twin sons in December.

Recently, Lowe recounts, "we took our lad around to see Elvis and Diana at Claridge's, and we had tea with them. Elvis had one boy on each shoulder, jamming a bottle into whosever face needed it -- to the manner born! -- while talking about Allen Toussaint and who he was going to use to play drums on his next tour."

Like Lowe's more recent solo albums, "At My Age" mines a wealth of American roots music, drawing on vintage country, soul and R&B to create an elegant mix of seemingly weathered originals tempering somber reflections on life and love with Lowe-ish wit ("Love's Got a Lot to Answer For," "I Trained Her to Love Me"), along with a few choice, usually obscure covers (Charlie Feathers's "The Man in Love," Faron Young's "Feel Again").

"I've always been in it for the long run," Lowe says of a career that has made him a cult and critical favorite. "In any case, you always have the best fun if you're just about to make it. Scuffling around in the basement is no fun at all, and being famous is no fun at all because of everybody wanting to pull you down. But being just about to make it is a great place to be, and that's where I've always tried to stay."

Nick Lowe Appearing Monday at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria Tickets:$25, available through Ticketmaster or at the Birchmere box office (5 to 9 on nights when there are performances). 202-397-7328 or http://www.birchmere.com.


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