August 12, 2008 / 5:43 AM / 10 years ago

Rocker Chrissie Hynde now a little bit country

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde unveiled tunes from her band’s first album in six years on Monday, reluctantly conceding that she is moving in a country direction.

Rock singer Chrissie Hynde arrives at the first ever PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) Europe humanitarian awards at the Stella McCartney fashion boutique in London,Britain June 28, 2006. REUTERS/David Moir

The event was hosted by Yahoo Music, which has recently showcased such artists as Buddy Guy, Brian Wilson and the Offspring on a soundstage at the 20th Century Fox lot.

The Pretenders’ performance is due to be posted on the Yahoo Web site on October 1, six days before the tentatively scheduled U.S. release of their album “Break up the Concrete.”

It marks the group’s first studio album since 2002’s unheralded “Loose Screw,” and its first release for film producer Steve Bing’s nascent indie label Shangri-La Music.

Hynde, 56, the only constant in the band’s 30-year run, recorded it in Los Angeles in 10 days with a new lineup.

English guitarist James Walbourne, American pedal steel player Eric Heywood and New Zealander Nick Wilkinson on bass, were joined in the studio by veteran session drummer Jim Keltner, who filled in for Pretenders mainstay Martin Chambers. In introducing Heywood, Hynde jokingly predicted that sales of pedal steels would soar at Christmas.

Dressed in a Coke-themed red T-shirt bearing the logo “Enjoy Akron,” skinny blue jeans and knee-high boots, Hynde led the band through 11 songs, six of them new.

The onomatopoeic title track boasts a Bo Diddley beat, while album and set opener “Boots of Chinese Plastic” is a rockabilly number about reincarnation. The ballads “Don’t Lose Faith In Me” and “Love’s a Mystery” are steeped in the Nashville idiom, but “Don’t Cut Your Hair” is traditional Pretenders post-punk.

The set was broken by a Q&A, in which members of the 400-strong crowd posed questions that mostly led to awkward silences.

Asked about the album’s rootsy orientation, Hynde replied, “I’ve avoided country music all my life.”

But, after living in England for the last 35 years, she said she has been spending more time in her hometown of Akron, Ohio, which has “perverted my sense of musicality.”

Chambers joked that he liked “country and eastern.”

“It is odd though, isn’t it,” Hynde added, “the way that country music and rock is such a separate industry here. It’s nice to think we might f—- it up a little bit, and that they might not know where to play our records.”

She went on to describe the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, into which the Pretenders were inducted in 2005, as a “big industry con,” and said late founding members Pete Farndon and James Honeyman-Scott continued to influence the band’s sound.

She dedicated the song “Kid” to the fallen duo. Other crowd-pleasing selections from the back catalog included “Thumbelina,” “Talk of the Town” and “Day After Day.”

Editing by Doina Chiacu

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