With Love Hurts, Julian Lage’s third trio album of Americana for Mack Avenue Records, the Grammy-nominated guitarist completes a trilogy. The two previous trio recordings, Modern Lore (2018) and Arclight (2016), dug deep into the pre-bop and rock-and-roll eras respectively; the subject of the new release is the unfettered musical milieu of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when free jazz was reaching toward its zenith.   

 Aesthetically, each album in the trilogy lays the groundwork for the next. This understood, the jumping-off point to Love Hurts from Modern Lore would likely be Lage’s experimental composition, “Earth Science,” the standout free improv tune on the earlier release. On the new record—Lage’s debut as producer and his first using drummer David King and bassist Jorge Roeder as the rhythm section—such a progressive effort would fit right in with his blue take on Jimmy Guifre’s “Trudgin’” and his crisp rendition of Ornette Coleman’s Donna Lee-referencing “Tomorrow Is The Question.”

 Lage’s source material here ranges far beyond the avant garde, however. The album’s track listing includes covers of “In Heaven” by Peter Ivers and David Lynch, from the oddball movie Eraserhead; the Roy Orbison’s country rock classic, “Cryin’”; and two of Keith Jarrett’s early compositions (“The Windup” and “Encore (A)”). On the surface, these several tunes have nothing to say to each other. But Lage’s incisive musicality and clean fretwork go a long way to bridging such aesthetic divides. And he makes it fun, besides, so where’s the rub?

 Lage’s two originals (“In Circles” and “Lullaby”) are the most inclusive selections on the recording, borrowing as they do from near everything else—Coleman’s out improvisations, Orbison’s country-western sensibility, Jarrett’s unabashed inquisitiveness. In this way, Lage signals his own compositional intent: to build musical bridges firmly rooted in place but standing outside of time and genre.

(Reprinted from the April edition of Downbeat magazine.)