Chrissie Hynde returns under The Pretenders banner again with yet another revamped lineup of musicians. She's often rotated sidemen following the passing of two original members in the early 80's, looking for the right people to fit her musical vision. In a career that's been filled with comebacks and setbacks, Hynde has persevered with her dark honeyed voice and sharp songwriting skills intact. But I pretty much lost interest in Hynde and The Pretenders after 1986's single "Don't Get Me Wrong" so I wondered if she still had something to interest me in 2008?
By adding a Country music influence and simultaneously stripping the sound back to a rawness often associated with their earliest work, Hynde comes across as invigorated and inspired. Up beat cuts like the charged first single "Boots of Chinese Plastic" or the Bo Diddleyish title track hit hard with ramshackle energy. On slower cuts, Hynde's yearning vocals such as on "Don't Lose Faith In Me" or the mature excellence of "The Nothing Maker" shine.
Famed drummer Jim Keltner anchors the band as they surround Hynde with road worn Americana. The grooves jump as creamy pedal steel guitar licks paint beer stained longing and breezy passages enhancing the best set of songs I've heard from Hynde since their hey day. Though founding drummer Martin Chambers is still with the band he is not included on this album.
Thanks to an interesting marketing campaign where a new song was released a week for a free download from various vendors, I gave this album a chance where if I had to pay for the whole thing I wouldn't of (the last two songs weren't free). I haven't listened to a full Pretenders album since Learning to Crawl (1983) and while Break Up the Concrete doesn't match the quality of the first three albums, it is a strong effort able to pass on its own merits.
The Pretenders "Boots of Chinese Plastic"