The Rolling Stones just wrapped their Zip Code stadium tour in Quebec last Wednesday, but Keith Richards is still on the job. On Tuesday night, the guitarist invited a few guests to New York’s Electric Lady Studios, where he held a listening session for Crosseyed Heart, his first solo album in 23 years due out September 18th.
At the event, a few dozen guests gathered before Richards materialized looking stage-ready – bright snakeskin-style jacket, hair spilling out of his bandana, Solo cup – grinning as he worked the room.
After several minutes, Monte Lipman, Chairman and CEO of Republic Records, introduced Richards, who kept his speech brief. The guitarist highlighed the “teamwork” that went into the album, naming two people specifically: Jane Rose, his longtime manager, and Steve Jordan, who played drums, co-produced and co-wrote many of the songs. “I hope you like it enough tonight to go out and buy it!” he said with a laugh.
With that, the title track began – a stomping country blues in the vein of of Robert Johnson. “Louder!” Richards asked, until the soundman cranked it up. Richards hung out in the corner of the room with Jordan, punctuating select tracks with terse commentary.
The excellent new album pulls from a grab bag of Richards’ signature tricks, including simmering reggae (The Gregory Isaacs-penned “Love Overdue,” with Ivan Neville on organ), several soulful acoustic ballads (including “Lovers Plea” and “Illusion,” a duet about empty love featuring Norah Jones) and loose, driving rockers (“Trouble.”)
One highlight was “Blues in the Morning,” an after-hours boogie full of Chuck Berry-style double-string stabs and a blazing sax solo from the late Bobby Keys, who passed away in last year. “It’s only rock & roll!” Richards said afterward. The musician stuck around until the final song, when he slipped away out of the room like a thief in the night.