“Love kills time, and time kills love,” Peter Wolf sings on Midnight Souvenirs, but this delightful new album makes one thing clear: Nothing can kill Wolf’s charm, musicality and youthfulness. His first release in eight years, Souvenirs shows off the virtues that have made Wolf’s work a pleasure through 16 years as lead singer with the J. Geils Band and now seven solo albums since 1984. He is less an outstanding singer than a convincing one — the passionate impresario of his own musical world, sharing his love of classic country, soul and R&B with anyone who cares to listen.
Wolf’s enthusiasm is contagious on a series of duets with some A-list peers. “The Green Fields of Summer” is a striking acoustic song where Wolf and Neko Case exude stark, autumnal beauty. “Tragedy” sounds like a killer Stones ballad, with Wolf laying his love-struck voice over a loose groove while country singer Shelby Lynne turns in some soulful heartache of her own.
Now 64, Wolf gets that nothing lasts forever. “The Night Comes Down” bids farewell to rocker Willy DeVille with steady-rocking grandeur. But Wolf knows that dourness doesn’t suit him. On “It’s Too Late for Me,” a duet with Merle Haggard, the two singers croon like old running buddies quietly congratulating themselves for outracing the sunrise yet again. It’s a lighthearted country lullaby about growing old that could have been written in 1955 — and another vital, world-wise moment on an album full of them.