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It's cool, not cruel, to be Christmas for Nick Lowe

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Nick Lowe was in a west London Starbucks recently when one of the songs from his 2013 holiday album "Quality Street" played over the store's speakers.

"It was sort of sandwiched between Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole, and I was pitifully thrilled to hear it -- even though it did sound like there had been some mistake," Lowe, 65, says with a chuckle. "When they put (the album) out last year it did better than anyone expected, but I still thought that the day after Christmas is when everything shuts down and that's it, you've had your go and no more will be heard of this piece of work.

"But there it was on their Christmas Muzak tape, so it's certainly caught people's attention. I'm really pleased it's getting another go."

Lowe, in fact, is expanding his own Christmas campaign this year. He's on tour leading a kind of all-star revue, with Los Straitjackets performing on its own and as Lowe's backing band. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ian McLagan, who passed away on Dec. 3, was to have been part of the tour, too.

"It could be a total fiasco or extremely entertaining," Lowe predicts. "Lest we forget, (Los Straitjackets) have made Christmas records as well, so they can knock out some great stuff, too. There's going to be enough actual holiday music in the show, but I think it's essentially doing to be a sort of rock 'n' roll dance party. it's not going to be very earnest and format.

"That's the kind of evening I've got in mind, anyway, and I think all parties are very determined to make it work."

Besides the holiday season, Lowe is also celebrating the 35th anniversary of "Cruel To Be Kind," his lone Top 20 hit in the U.S. and a song that he actually wrote while in the band Brinsley Schwarz. The group broke up in 1975, and Lowe assumed it was forever consigned to the vaults until a record company executive insisted that he re-record it for his second solo album, "Labour of Lust."

"I love doing that song, still," Lowe says. "It's not a chore at all. It's real good. I feel very luck to have a song like that. Someone who's just stepped off the street to get out of the rain and comes to one of my shows and doesn't really know who I am, I've just got to start up 'Cruel To Be King' and they'll go, 'Oh, is he the guy that did that? I know that!'

"For someone like me that's a very, very nice piece of kit to have in your armory, a nice hit hat everyone knows."

Nick Lowe's Quality Holiday Revue with Los Straitjackets

8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9

The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor.

Tickets are $35.

Call 834-761-1800 or visit www.theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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