Duff McKagan has refined himself into a subtle punk rocker. Tenderness (Universal Music Enterprises) is the third full-length album from the Guns N’ Roses bassist—an optimistic and subtle release that showcases his most sincere state that we have seen in his long career. Produced by Shooter Jennings, this Country/Americana driven collection will have you with your horns and lighters up high.
‘Tenderness’ opens up with a piano ensemble as McKagan declares the turbulent times we are living in and calmly calls for love and understanding. The arrangement on this title-track is intriguing and much like the album in its entirety the vocals are confident. Hope is the message throughout the album as it is in ‘It’s Not Too Late’ where he calls on for the world to make the change and make it a better place. ‘Wasted Heart’ starts off with a somber acoustic guitar that accompanied his soulful vocals as well as some saxophone notes that add some color. It feels very human and well, very tender.
‘Falling Down’ carries this psychedelic vibe, which goes well with its bleak imagery. It is followed by the ballad of domestic abuse, ‘Last September.’ He portrays the pain that has been felt in the #MeToo era very well—it’s simply raw. The tempo picks up in the very catchy ‘Chip Away.’ The chorus is groovy and memorable as is the guitar solo in the breakdown. If you were missing a bit of McKagan’s punk-rock roots, you’ll find it in this track that will be a crowd favorite.
‘Cold Outside’ slows it down again with its violin-laced and softer guitar strums. ‘Feel’ standouts and serves as an ode to Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington and former bandmate, Scott Weiland. The memorable ‘Breaking Rocks’ is the duet with Jennings and it’s very bluesy-rock. The vibe changes one last time with ‘Parkland.’ The track talks about the effects of mass shootings—the song itself is electrifying and eerie in its more subtle way. Wrapping it up with ‘Don’t Look Behind You,’ convinces you to not look back but it’s crafted so keenly that ends the record at full circle.
In Tenderness, a wise use of the pedal steel, horns, fiddle and strings create this admirable power. But it’s the lyricism and earnestness that McKagan presents here that makes it an intriguing record. He might have abandoned his punk-rock roots here but they are barely missed.
8 / 10