An act pigeonholed as Americana are the Memphis-based rock band Lucero. Album number ten comes out with distribution by Thirty Tigers, which is always a great sign.
The album’s opening seconds include some sonic wizardry, an A major palm-stopped chord and the vocal melody sitting on top of the note. Have You Lost Your Way doesn’t explode but stays in the same place, setting the album’s tone.
Ben Nichols writes the songs and his stated goal with this album is to hark back to 80s FM radio but make it modern. Lyrically it’s inspired by his toddler, with whom he has spent a lot of time in the last few years since he and his band can’t play these songs in clubs and arenas. Outrun The Moon is representative of this aim: there are elements of Band of Horses, Steve Earle and Tom Petty, heartland rock with lots of movement in the lyric (‘she’s running through the moonlight’). There’s a great section where the drums play constant quavers that really matches the song’s title and shows a good grasp of matching lyric and melody.
Pull Me Close Don’t Let Go is a lullaby so simple and direct even a child could understand it, with a pulsating arrangement from the band. The tender title track is about love and stuff: ‘You found a way for me to find my way to you’ is as simple as declarations of love get.
Both All My Life and Good As Gone sound like modern rock. On the latter there are synths, a rumbling bass and a thrilling chorus about how ‘good as gone ain’t good enough’. Coffin Nails includes the words ‘banshee’, ‘ounce’ and ‘Ides of March’ and evokes a Western, outlaw mood as Ben seeks to ‘weigh my deeds on my father’s scales’. A City On Fire, meanwhile, comes off like a Metallica ballad covered by a Memphis bar band: ‘In a city built on a tinderbox, a spark becomes a flame.’
Ben’s voice growls on The Match (‘that knocks down your wall’) which seems very metaphorical. The lyrics contain plenty of animals – a white deer, a dog, ‘wolves outside your kitchen’ – but also a witch and ‘a beautiful girl in a white gown’. Back In Ohio is the album’s most direct song: ‘Sailing to redemption but they’ll miss you back home in Oooooooo-hio’ reminds me of Jason Isbell’s recent music but the guitar riff sounds like The Hold Steady, another bar band who can play clubs and arenas. There is a saxophone solo which can only remind the listener of The Big Man, Clarence Clemons, and the leader of the best bar band in the world: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
Rock out to When You Found Me but meditate to it in equal measure.