The rockabilly stylist plays the House of Blues Tuesday, and we have a pair of tickets to give away.
Time has taken some of high, soaring quality out of Chris Isaak’s voice, but in return it game him edge. His songs once seemed stylized to the point that they conveyed the ideas of pain or longing instead of the real things. In his classic “Wicked Game,” Isaak seemed as self-conscious about being heard as lost in sexual head games as Helena Christensen was about wanting to be seen playing them in the video. In Ann Powers’ review of 2015’s First Comes the Night, she wrote, “The 59-year-old's tenor has grown rawer, lending his inquiries into heartbreak an air of menace. If his 1989 classic ‘Wicked Game’ froze sexual enthrallment in yuppie amber, Isaak is now much freer in his expressions of angst.”
Isaak has spent much of the 2000s trying to navigate his place in sonic time, with albums that sound almost contemporary as well as ones such as 2011’s Beyond the Sun, with rockabilly covers of songs released on Sun Records. First Comes the Night finds him three hours northeast up I-40 in Nashville, where he recorded with his long-time producer Paul Needham, Paul Worley (Dixie Chicks, Lady Antebellum), and Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Kristin Diable), and because of that, some songs twang in the way that the best Isaak songs do, while others occupy a less distinctive place.