There is something about Lucero that just makes you feel… real.
Okay, maybe the posters of a blue collar lady lighting her cigarette with a blowtorch aren’t realistic, but the mentality certainly is. Here Lucero is 14 years later, for what is their eighth album, Women & Work.
If the one thing the Memphis, Tennessee group never ignored despite being in the alternative genre, was their country roots. With every passing album Lucero has lost their punk edge, and their lying somewhere in-between The Ramones and Lonestar.
The record’s one-two starter punches of the “Downtown Intro” and “On My Way Downtown” picks up on the sound where 1372 Overton Park left off. This new album features a larger horn section, keyboard of all kind, and even a gospel chorus. Well, you only get the best when Ted Hutt (The Gaslight Anthem) returns as producer.
From rockabilly with Jerry Lee Lewis energy (“Women & Work”) to pure blues (“Juniper”), it proves not only will Lucero get strange, but they have themselves pushed the limits. Like a Social Distortion with an affliction for steel pedal guitars, these are the saints for as country as punks will get.
Don’t say that there’s no way Lucero can be country. Just to throw it out there, the lyrics to “Women & Work” feature: “Honky-tonk and a Jackknife. Tomahawk and an ex-wife. Come on kid, let’s drink ‘em down / Kid don’t let it get ya down.” The album’s repetitive chorus’ beats you over the head like any typical country song – even if they aren’t good choruses. This is a phenomenon I will never understand but it makes millions upon millions of dollars every year in the music industry.
Another change is Ben Nichols’ vocals style. Gone is the grit in his voice as heard in Nobody’s Darling’s and Tennessee, and in with a cleaner croon. Lyrically like most Lucero albums, there’s still plenty of sadness to go around – so fans fear not. Try “I Can’t Stand to Leave You,” where Nichols sings, “Yes I’ve felt this kind of pain / A hole straight through my chest/ Yes, I’ve felt this kind of pain / Seems now it’s all that’s left.” He is backed up by a more country version of Roy Berry’s drums, John Stubblefield’s bass, Brian Venable’s guitar, Todd Beene’s steel pedal, and Rick Steff’s keys.
On the band’s biography, Nichols says, “You work all week, thinking about women and the weekend. ‘Downtown’ is Friday night; ‘Go Easy’ is Sunday morning. The rest of the record is the party in between.” That couldn’t be better put. This record will resonate because it’s beautiful, simple, and quite frankly gives you a feeling music’s been missing these days.
Easily this record make you feel like sunny days and whiskey were the only things that ever existed. We all share whatever that existence actually is and that’s why Women & Work is a classic.