From time to time, a healthy dose of red, white and Bob Seger does the trick.

Ride Out

B+
Bob Seger
Capitol Records


The world has been deprived of any new material from this scruffy Detroiter for seven years. But now, Ride Out has slid into the laps of classic rock fanatics everywhere, much more gracefully than Tom Cruise flouncing in his white socks and paper-thin shirt dress. This album is solid — rooted in the rich guitars and heartland melodies of which Seger built his quintessentially rock and roll persona.

It starts out with “Detroit Made,” a song that sounds more old than new but in the best way possible. A crowd-pleaser for Seger traditionalists, it blends in seamlessly with past up-tempo hits like “Hollywood Nights” and “Old Time Rock And Roll.” Gospel back-up singers illuminate the chorus as the listener is rocketed into the rest of the album’s nostalgia.

Feeding into the old-time atmosphere is the fact Seger sounds astonishingly like his old self — just as gruff, soulful, maybe a little bit deeper in tone and content. That’s expected, though, and especially highlighted on intimate tunes like “You Take Me In,” following in the footsteps of the youthfully sensual “We’ve Got Tonite.” The preeminent ballad of the album, it feels vulnerable but more mature and romantic. Its stripped-down background puts Seger in the front seat, and he delivers. It’s good to see “America’s underdog” restrain his bark.

Ride Out is full of muses, too, as shown through the four cover songs featured on the tracklist. The best of the four is “California Stars;” its lyrics were penned by Woody Guthrie back in the ‘30s and eventually set to music in 1998 by Wilco and Billy Bragg on their collaborative album, Mermaid Avenue. It’s a peaceful, acoustic groove that makes the listener want to cozy up with the one they love and an American flag blanket under the stars that “hang like grapes on vines that shine/And warm the lovers glass like friendly wine.” Seger’s all about the comfort in the familiar.

But there are some tunes that veer off the path of ease — missing the mark slightly. Take “It’s Your World,” Seger’s lukewarm attempt at a political statement song — it builds and builds in the verses but fails to crescendo into a chorus strong enough to match its meaning. It leaves you wanting more, which is rare for a crooner that oozes soul.

He continues on his songs-in-the-sadder-vein streak with “All of the Roads,” a road-weary song which, again, is the older brother of the traveling-themed 1973 hit “Turn the Page.” It’s decent, dealing with Seger’s retrospective emotions toward his early days on the road building his career — but it’s not quite as cool as “Turn the Page.” The song falls into a familiar groove, a jam-y acoustic chorus, leading to a lack of intrigue that doesn’t work in favor with his subject. “Grown up” Seger doesn’t always have to mean “boring” Seger.

If the seasoned singer has learned anything, though, it’s that ending with a bang is crucial — and he delivers on his final track, “Gates of Eden.” It is gradual, epic and surprisingly ethereal — the foggy morning after the battle, air laced with victory and calmness.

That kind of music just soothes the soul.

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