“I don’t think the world really needs another Pretenders record. But frankly, I was getting embarrassed because we hadn’t made a record in so long. And we were doing a lot of touring, and I just can’t stomach doing those old songs anymore. It’s just torture.”
As she began to work on new songs, she found her direction changing. “Spending more time in Akron, I was getting more of an American feel in my sensibility,” she said. In addition, the Pretenders toured last year with ZZ Top, and Ms. Hynde participated in a tribute concert to Jerry Lee Lewis. When she went to Joshua Tree National Park in California and found where the ashes of the alternative-country pioneer Gram Parsons had been scattered, “I sort of had my epiphany there and I thought, Wow, I think I know how this thing is going to go now.”
Cut live in the studio in less than two weeks, “Concrete” is loose and scrappy, shot through with rockabilly and country. It offers yet another version of the Pretenders, whose lineup Ms. Hynde has continually juggled since the deaths of the founding guitarist, James Honeyman-Scott, and the bassist Pete Farndon in the early ’80s. The drummer Martin Chambers, the other most consistent member, is touring with the band, but the session ace Jim Keltner plays drums on the album. “Chrissie is as subtle as napalm,” Mr. Chambers said in a phone interview. “She’s absolutely uncompromising. She knows when there’s something wrong that needs to be fixed, and she does it.”
Chrissie Hynde channeling Gram Parsons? Sounds like a winner to me. And Chrissie has another message of hope for those of us fretting about next month:
“I have a very good sense of these things,” she said. “Like when I was moving around in the ’70s, trying to get a band together. I went to Cleveland, I went to Paris, but around 1976, I could just sense something was going to happen in London. Sure enough, in 1977 the whole punk thing broke loose. And I have that same feeling right now about America.
“Believe me, I don’t feature any false optimism. I’m very realistic about things. But I can sense that there is this change coming, and a lot of it is because people will have no choice.”
NB. Pretenders appearing at the Highline Ballroom in NYC this week. Get your dancing shoes on!