Album review: Bobby Womack's 'The Bravest Man in the Universe'
"I got a story to tell," 68-year-old Bobby Womack announces at the outset of his remarkable new album, and at first you're pretty sure about the nature of his tale: An intergenerational hookup with producer Richard Russell and Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, "The Bravest Man in the Universe" appears to follow recent late-career outings by Johnny Cash, Solomon Burke and Gil Scott-Heron, who also worked with Russell on 2010's "I'm New Here"; the stripped-down music begins as a sobering meditation on regret and infirmity after a life of excess.
But soon Womack, growling raggedly and with a disarming lack of vanity, takes the album somewhere else: In "Love Is Gonna Lift You Up" he sings about the return of hope over a buoyant electro-disco groove, while the beautiful avant-cabaret ballad "Dayglo Reflection" (featuring typically smoky guest vocals by Lana Del Rey) summons a sense of romance that doesn't feel expired or used-up. The result confronts old age without giving in to self-pity. It earns its title.
"The Bravest Man in the Universe"
Three and a half stars (out of four)
-- Mikael Wood