Darius Lux – Time Is Now (2012)

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Inspirational but not Pollyanna, musically complex but approachable, Darius Lux’s new EP Time is Now finds a way to encourage without stumbling into comfy bromides, to challenge without becoming radio-unfriendly.

“No Problem” opens the six-song cycle with a shambling roadhouse rhythm, as Lux growls his way through the verse — only to soar into the uppermost reaches of his vocal range as he enters the chorus, a thrilling ride. Singing a song about letting go (“the problem is there’s no problem: I don’t need no drama, mama”), Lux’s voice brings in the gritty jam-band groove of John Popper from Blues Traveler and the peacenik optimism of Lenny Kravitz.

A similar musical complexity runs through “Way It Goes,” which quickly shucks a lover-man croon for a nifty little rock hook, even as Lux deftly switches to a more rhythmic cadence. Cruising just behind a chicken shack-rattling bass thump, Lux again confronts life’s larger questions — and comes to a similarly straight-forward set of conclusions: Bad things happen, and you must move on. “Best Day,” bookended by a very angular cadence, flirts with a Led Zeppelin-esque musical ambition, with a broadly anthematic arc in between. This is music made to move clouds, to brighten spirits, to open hearts.

The roiling emotions of “What I Feel,” then, come as no small surprise. Whereas much of Time is Now, to this point, has worked like a strong, warm breeze at the back of the listener, this track more directly addresses the deeper worries that creep into even the most upbeat person’s thoughts. Working in a piano-driven context, Lux asks “does anybody care how I care? Does anybody dream what I dream?” Frank, and brutally honest, this is the other side — the needed side — to any story of persevering.

The title track returns, with a gruff force, to the musical snarl and attitude of the album’s initial trio of songs, even adding a heart-splashing series of brass blasts. “World Keeps On Turnin,'” a track recorded in concert, then concludes things with a final assessment of the strange impermanence of this world — “the good and the bad, it comes and it goes” — and another admonition to make the most of things.

By and large, Lux does just that across this six-track EP — pushing himself musically and, in the end, acknowledging that for all of our best intentions, for all of our worthy dreams, bad turns happen. And that they’ll, very unfortunately, happen again and again. Lux remains, in that final moment of applause, unbent. He keeps going, and we do, too.

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