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August 23, 2014

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MUSIC:

Heart in hand, Kenny Loggins rides into danger zone

‘Footloose’ singer unashamedly details emotional journey of divorce in latest album

If You Go

  • What: Kenny Loggins
  • When: 8 p.m. Friday
  • Where: Ovation Lounge, Green Valley Ranch
  • Admission: $45-$65; www.greenvalleyranchresort.com
  • When: 8 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Access Showroom, Aliante
  • Admission: $49.50-$70; www.aliantecasinohotel.com

Kenny Loggins - Heart to Heart

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Kenny Loggins has always put it all out there in his songs. Whatever is going on in the singer-songwriter’s life, happy or sad, ends up in his nakedly emotional music, and as a result, his past few albums have been sort of catchy group therapy sessions on CD.

So when Loggins’ most recent album, “How About Now?” arrived bearing such song titles as “This Too Shall Pass,” “I’m a Free Man Now” and “I Don’t Want to Hate You Anymore,” it was cause for concern.

Everything OK, Kenny?

“My songs are intended to guide and comfort me,” Loggins, 61, says on the phone from Costa Mesa, Calif. “And I think it’s my nature to want to look for something to hold onto. People say that hope is the thread that runs through my material. It shows up in song after song.”

This is Loggins’ way of getting around to talking about his 2004 divorce from his wife Julia. Loggins left his first wife and three children for her, an upheaval quite publicly documented on two albums, 1991’s “Leap of Faith” and 1997’s “The Unimaginable Life,” and a book co-authored with Julia, which positioned the pair as sort of love gurus.

“It’s been five years and I’m still reeling,” he says today about the split. “I got pretty blindsided by Julia’s decision to leave. She’s a very impulsive woman, and she found herself going through a midlife crisis. And she didn’t know what to make of it, and it changed her life.”

Interested listeners can trace Loggins’ life and loves through the earnest introspection and ultra-personal revelations of “Leap of Faith,” an ambitious, lushly melodic and intensely personal song cycle that dealt with his impending divorce, his new love, his struggle to make peace with the spirit of his late father and his own fatherhood, and ultimately his (and our) responsibility to the world at large.

That album included a particularly potent pop ballad titled “The Real Thing,” in which Loggins gently explains divorce to his daughter, who was then too young to really understand why her daddy was leaving. (That daughter, Bella, is majoring in music in college; her brother Crosby Loggins has two albums under his belt.)

“I promised myself I was going to go in the hard places and look at everything that needed to be looked at,” Loggins says. And that may explain why Loggins has a fan base that is more loyal and emotionally connected than most.

“People will ask me, ‘How is your career still going so strong?’ And I have to say it’s because every now and then I’ll hit a song that people will go, ‘That’s my song.’ ”

Loggins’ Las Vegas concerts this weekend — he’s playing Green Valley Ranch on Friday and Aliante on Saturday — are part of a solo “tour-ette” he’s doing before letting his own band go and heading off for a late summer reunion tour as one-half of Loggins & Messina. His old partner Jim Messina is recently divorced himself, but is remarried, with a brand-new baby.

“I don’t want to be an oldies act. Loggins & Messina is, I believe, strictly a nostalgia act,” Loggins says. “But the people are really happy to see us. That audience wants to go back to that time in their lives. And I don’t blame them.”

The gentle, good-time country-pop era of Loggins & Messina ended in 1976 when Loggins went solo, making his fortune writing hyperactive hits for movie soundtracks, including “Footloose” and “Danger Zone” (from “Top Gun”). Then came the turn toward the introspective, which continues with this most recent confessional crop of songs on 2007’s “What About Now.” Recorded in Nashville, it has a more stripped-down, aggressively country-influenced sound than his previously lavish soft rock.

“That all started with the (2005) Loggins & Messina reunion, which had a very countrified band,” Loggins says. “I started wondering, ‘Where would I be right now if Loggins & Messina had stayed together and I had never diverged into the ‘Celebrate Me Home’ direction. ‘What kind of stuff would I be writing now?’ My goal for the record was to write songs that I could play myself on my guitar.”

Loggins says he was disappointed by how the album was marketed.

“It’s kind of invisible,” he says. “I make a joke about how when Target said they wanted to make it an exclusive, I didn’t realize that by exclusive they meant ‘employees only.’ ”

Luckily, Loggins has yet another backup demographic at the ready: He has been successfully writing and performing music for children and parents. In June, Disney will release “All Join In,” Loggins’ second album of children’s songs, and his music appears on the DVD and soundtrack to Disney’s “Tigger & Pooh and a Musical Too.”

And he wants his fans to know that he’s all right — in fact he’s even footloose again.

“I’m dating and I’m out there in the world,” he says, noting that whenever he plays Vegas, he makes a point of taking prospective girlfriends to see Cirque du Soleil’s “Love” at the Mirage. “If they don’t like ‘Love,’ I don’t date them anymore.

“As a friend of mine said, ‘Well, if you’ve gotta be 60 and single, you might as well be Kenny Loggins.’ ”

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