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CD Review: Ian McLagan & the Bump Band, “Never Say Never”

Ian McLagan - Never Say NeverI’m not much of a believer in band reunions — they seldom result in any output that actually improves the band’s legacy, and often have just the opposite effect. Still, I was thrilled recently when rumors of a Faces reunion were all over the Internet. First of all, the Faces were always one of my favorite bands; second, despite the presence of future superstars Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, they never really got the shot that they deserved. Of course, a lot of that was of their own mischievous making. In many ways the world has come to see the Faces as the perennial scrappy underdogs.

Most of the Faces have gone on to solo careers, to one degree of success or another. Beloved bassist and songwriter Ronnie Lane died in 1997. None of them have been able to recreate the special vibe that a Faces album had, though; it was some sort of magic blend of carefree rock and roll, and cry in your beer pathos.

Faces (and Small Faces) keyboard player Ian McLagan became something of a journeyman, making brilliant contributions to records and tours by the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Lucinda Williams, and many, many others. He is one of the most respected and revered musicians in the world by his colleagues and his fans. He moved to Austin in 1994, where he formed the Bump Band, which includes bassist Mark Andes (Spirit, Jo Jo Gunne, Canned Heat, Heart), drummer Don Harvey (Martha Davis, Joe Ely, Charlie Sexton), and Joe Newcomb (Ray Wylie Hubbard, the Resentments, Beaver Nelson). The band released “Extra Live” in 2006.

On August 2, 2006, McLagan suffered a loss that would change his life substantially. His wife Kim was killed in a car accident near Austin. She was 57 years-old, and they had been married for 28 years. Kim had previously been married to Who drummer Keith Moon. McLagan hasn’t stopped playing though, far from it, and now he’s back with Never Say Never (00:02:59), a solo album by a former Faces member that finally captures the magic of the legendary band.

Several of the songs are devastating tributes to Kim, including the beautiful “Where Angels Hide.” Accompanying himself on a Steinway piano in the Edythe Bates Old Chapel in Round Top, Texas, McLagan sings in a voice filled with emotion:

You’re not alone
She’ll always be there
Right by your side
Singing lullabies

When you dream
She’ll always be
Where angels hide
In paradise

Before you start thinking that this is a maudlin, depressing album, let me disabuse you of that notion with a rollicking bit of throwback fun that will put a smile on your face: “I Will Follow.” There’s a lot more rocking than regret on this album.

On a very cold night in New York City a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to meet and speak briefly with Ian McLagan. He was playing keys for Patty Griffin that night, and he was so unassuming that until she introduced the band, most people didn’t realize who he was. I knew though, and when the show ended, I made a beeline toward the stage just for the chance to say hello and shake his hand (believe me, that’s not something I do very often). I did get to say hello, and we spoke for a few minutes. I don’t remember what I said to him. I was starstruck, and probably pretty incoherent. He was modest, gracious, and grateful for the praise I was no doubt raining down on him. I’ve met a number of famous musicians over the years. It’s like meeting anyone else: some are friendly, others not so much, but my brief meeting with Ian McLagan was a highlight. He’s made a wonderful album. It will be released in March. Go and get it.

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