Lucero

Lucero – Among The Ghosts (album review)

by Woody on August 1, 2018

Photo by Dan Ball

Among The Ghosts is an album by a band trying to rekindle the magic of their youth, and for the most part pulling it off. Ten years into career, starting with 2009’s 1372 Overton Park, the band began working in a Memphis soul influences into their sound. While I loved the earlier stuff more, it was a nice transition for the band as they fell prey to Father Time like we all do.

On Among The Ghosts, Ben Nichols and crew circles back to the days where they were leading the charge on alt-country; combining punk with twang; all the while wearing their heart on their sleeve. While their sound looks towards the past, the lyrics by Nichols shows some real nice growth here. Nichols’ lyrics has always leaned towards a heart-on-sleeve autobiographical bent; on Among The Ghosts he becomes more of a storyteller.

On To My Dearest Wife, Nichols blends both as he uses Civil War letters from the front and combines with his time on the road away from his new family to pen one of Lucero’s top tracks ever. Bottom Of The Sea, a track about a drowning, has a dark gothic feel in a tune that builds nicely with some tasty riffs. Cover Me sees Nichols’ vocals at their grizzled best, as the protagonist sings of a shootout in the ol’ Wild West.

For this album, the boys all loaded into one room at Sam Phillips Recording and tracked this puppy live. You can feel it throughout as it captures a certain energy that only comes from being in the same room with guys you’ve been with for 20 years. Listen, as I am loathe to tell you, you can’t recreate your youth. But sometimes you can pay it a quick visit for inspiration. And Lucero does that quite well on Among The Ghosts.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or @HearYa

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Photo by Dan Ball

Lucero are back with their 9th album, and if the first two songs are any indication; they are going to be entering their 20th year of existence on a high note. The tunes below are the best tracks I’ve heard Lucero crank out since Rebels. Read this below and tell me you’re not fucking amped.

Recorded primarily live as a five-piece, Among the Ghosts eschews the Stax-inspired horns and Jerry Lee Lewis-style boogie piano featured on some of the band’s past recordings for a streamlined rock & roll sound that pays homage to their seminal influences as it seeks to push that legacy into the future. For a band who carried the torch of the alt-country movement back in the 90’s and helped pave the way for what is now called Americana, Lucero have re-discovered what inspired them in the first place. The sound is more their own and at the same time not exactly like anything they’ve done before. This is a band settling into their craft.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or @HearYa

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Lucero – All A Man Should Do [album review]

by Woody on September 16, 2015

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I tire of hearing of fans complain about a band’s new output. This isn’t is as good as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or It Still Moves, or in Lucero’s case – Tennessee. As long as band stays true to themselves and doesn’t become a caricature of themselves while selling out, I enjoy watching the progression. Let’s call that the Robert Plant vs. Mick Jagger dynamic. And while certain efforts might warrant more praise than others, I wouldn’t want the band to just spend the rest of their days trying to recreate something that can’t be recreated.

All that leads me to Lucero’s latest effort, All A Man Should Do – a title that comes from a lyric in Big Star’s legendary track, I’m In Love With A Girl. A track that Lucero covers on the album, with Big Star’s Jody Stephens lending some background vocals to boot. Over the last two albums, Lucero has really explored the Memphis soul sound with horn accompaniments that for the most part lent the music a fresh new sound, almost becoming a rock ‘n’ soul revue. For All A Man Should Do, the horns were toned down a bit and the melodies were emphasized.

The album consists of 10 track of mid-tempo rock that feels like it should be played live while the band all sit on stools. And while it may lack some of the bite of Lucero’s earlier stuff, it is in no way lacking in quality. And holding it all together is the whiskey-soaked rasp of Ben Nichols. Nichols’ vocals have always been the voice of an old soul and on an album that seems to be full of reflective moments, he couldn’t sound any better.

The first half of the album is the storm, the difficult times in Nichols’ life. Lead single, Went Looking For Warren Zevon’s Los Angeles seems to be a trail looking back at some of life’s decisions that took you from home looking for change and adventure, but in the end you realize that home is where you belong. A couple tracks later a ballad, I Woke Up In New Orleans, is built around Rick Sheff’s piano. It is beautiful song full of regret, complete with a subtle mournful horn section.

The latter part of the album represents the rising, including the Big Star cover which is fantastic. They Called Her Killer sounds like a fleshed out tune off the excellent Ben Nichols EP, The Last Pale Night In The West, where the protagonist finds himself head over heels for a new love. And the closer, Me & My Girl in ’93 looks back at a time in life where love seemed so much similar; “its us against the world.”

Lucero entered into that warm blanket phase a few years ago. By that I mean that they became one of those bands that I equated to a safe haven – never disappointing and always enjoyable. I look forward to their new releases and tour. Will they ever reach the pinnacle of This Mountain / Sing Me No Hymns / The Weight of Guilt (a better three song run I don’t know)? I can’t answer that question but they will always have a place carved out in my soul. And for that I am thankful.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or @HearYa

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Lucero – Women & Work [Album Review]

by Woody on March 26, 2012

As you get older, your tastes change. For example, I used to watch ESPN religiously. Now I would much rather watch The Travel Channel and shows like No Reservations, Man vs. Food and Weird Foods. For Lucero, they have embraced the sound of their hometown of Memphis; a sound that their earlier albums rebelled against.

For the second straight album Lucero worked up an album of good ol’ Memphis Stax sound complete with the requisite soul. And while Lucero’s sound has matured or changed (or whatever you would like to call it), there are a couple of things that remain constant

1) The ability to create a guitar lick that gets embedded in your soul. I can’t think of any band from recent years that has more guitar licks that have been burned into my brain than Lucero. And that is front and center from the opening track of “Downtown (Intro)” into “On My Way Downtown.” When Ben delivers one of this trademarks “alright” at the beginning of “On My Way Downtown,” I’m all in on Women & Work.

The opening lick of I Can’t Stand To Leave You is flat-out brilliant as well. It does a great job of conveying the theme of the song, loneliness, before Ben utters one word. While Ben Nichols has always been the face of Lucero, Brian Venable has probably had just as much to do with shaping my love of the band.

2) The lyrics. Love found and lost. Coming of age. Friendship. Family. These have all been constant themes in albums past and they are front and center here. Ben’s favorite line on the album is something that would seem natural on any previous Lucero effort: Come on out tonight, Oh I’ll be good tonight.

Overall, I think Women & Work is a great album. I don’t know if I would put it on par with 1372 Overton Park quite yet, but a summer of drinking cool ones in the backyard while this plays in the background could change that. In talking to Oz, I described it as follows, “Its a great album to play when you have friends over and you don’t want to scare them away with some of our more obscure tunes.” Its easily accessible and the lyrics are for every person to enjoy.

Much like I hope The Black Keys record an album with just the two of them in the near future, I would like to hear Lucero fire one more album out sans horns with all the punk energy of their youth. Maybe its a way for we to reconnect to my own youth – the days when I would lie on the couch licking my wounds from the previous night while watching SportsCenter as opposed to watching Adam Richman take down a 6 pound omelette with my kids. Until that album comes out, I’ll just keep catching live sets whenever I can to hear those old favs. Even at SxSW, when bands are dead set on showcasing their new tunes during shortened sets on strict time lines, Lucero made sure to mix in some of their hornless classics.

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Lucero’s Women and Work, out March 13th

January 18, 2012

Ben Nichols has been playing some new Lucero tunes during his solo tour last Spring and Women and Work is the album I’m most looking forward to this year. It’ll be released on March 13th, right before they hit Austin for SxSW. I expressed my regrets to Woody yesterday for missing Lucero two years ago […]

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Ben Nichols of Lucero in Purgatory on Easter Sunday [Concert Review]

April 26, 2011

Ben Nichols of Lucero is embarking on a quixotic motorcycle trip through the South with a guitar strapped to his back.  While most musicians would take time off to relax between their band’s tour dates, Ben is spending his vacation on two wheels and in front of small crowds of Lucero’s most loyal fans. I, […]

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Lucero at The Bottom Lounge, Chicago 10.24.09 [Concert Review]

October 30, 2009

My friend Nick and I went to the Lucero show the other night at the new Bottom Lounge in Chicago. I say new because the first time I saw Lucero was at the old Bottom Lounge years ago.‚  The new digs are way better (read: you don’t have to wipe your feet off before you […]

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Lucero – 1372 Overton Park [Album Review]

October 21, 2009

Okay, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. The horns. Anyone that has heard Lucero’s new album (and their major label debut), 1372 Overton Park, has an opinion on the issue and I have been sitting on the fence. I like the fact that they are paying homage to their hometown of Memphis and […]

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Lucero releases 2nd new video, Johnny Davis

September 24, 2009

I’m loving this PR strategy by Lucero. As you know, they asked fans to create music videos for each song on their upcoming album, 1372 Overton Park (release date Oct. 6th). These videos ain’t exactly home movies on camcorders. Video: Lucero – Johnny Davis Johnny Davis from Lucero on Vimeo. Tweet

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Lucero premieres video for new track, Darken My Door

September 18, 2009

We’re getting dangerously close to the release of two of my most anticipated albums of the year with Lucero’s 1372 Overton Park and The Avett Brothers’ I And Love And You. Lucero is promoting the album with fan created videos of each song. Here’s the first video released for “Darken My Door.” Look for the […]

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