BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
After nearly 40 years as a mainstay of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and serving as a session player who’s worked with everyone from Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash to the Rolling Stones and Elvis Costello, a solo album from keyboardist Benmont Tench seems something of an afterthought. Fortunately, as You Should Be So Lucky tends to prove, it’s been well worth the wait.
Though his songwriting skills have rarely come to the fore, the quality of the material here — all of which he wrote, save a pair of covers — makes these tunes first rate. “Today I Took Your Picture Down,” a bittersweet ode to lost love, and “Veronica Said,” a slice of cheery pop perfection, are ultimately keepers, a one-two punch that foretells the superior set that follows. The pair of piano instrumentals — “Wobbles” and “Ecor Rouge” — might have been expected, but neither can be dismissed as simply any sort of perfunctory performance. As for Tench’s vocals, rarely heard in the solo spotlight before, they come across with a kind of Dylanesque slur, not surprising considering his reprise of Dylan’s “Corrina, Corrina” and “Duquesne Whistle.”
Ironically though, it’s a pair of originals – “Hannah” and “Blonde Girl, Blue Dress” – that most evoke the sound of the Bobster’s recent forays. As for any Petty implication, the rocking title track offers the only real similarity in style. An all-star roster of great guests give Tench due payback – Petty (natch), Ringo Starr, Don Was, Ethan Johns, dad Glynn Johns, Ryan Adams, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, among them – but it’s clear that Tench isn’t beholden to anyone as far as his own efforts are concerned. We should all be so lucky.
DOWNLOAD: “Today I Took Your Picture Down,” “Veronica Said,” “Blonde Girl, Blue Dress”