Lucero‘s much-anticipated seventh studio album Women & Work, is out this week from ATO records, and is a kick-to-the-gut combination of Memphis-soul sound and unapologetic honesty.
Lucero fans have waited two long years for the follow-up to 1372 Overton Park, an album indelibly marked with the Memphis influence of horns and piano. Women & Work follows in that same vein with lead-singer Ben Nichols and his whiskey-worn voice delivering songs with a disarming sideways smile in his voice. This, like their previous releases, seems to a be personal tale of life and love and experience.
Leading the album out with “Downtown (Intro)” the listener is immediately drawn into the sound, Nichol’s voice leads the listener into the album, gently coaxing and prodding “/I know the last time we drank/I was a little less than behaved/Come on out tonight/I’ll be good tonight/.”
The relatively simple almost soothing introduction lasts for just over minute and then, just after the 1:07 mark the listener is shoved head-first into a rowdy bar-room of a song screaming with brass and piano. “On My Way Downtown” chronicles the continuing dialogue of Nichols wooing a woman in his own straightforward way, “/I ain’t looking for forever/I ain’t asking for your hand/I’m just on my way downtown/and thought I’d take a chance/”. This is true Memphis sound in all of its’ glory and it’s easy to imagine the Friday night lights of Beale street flickering through the glass of the back window. Legendary horn players Scott Thompson (Cat Power, Al Green) and Jim Spake (Solomon Burke, Ray Charles) bring decades of soul and sound to this album and their influence is amazingly bright in this number.
Lucero’s On My Way Downtown
The second half of the album takes a slight turn for the melancholy; the deeply introspective “When I Was Young” is heavy with country-music influence but it’s a comfortable sound, one expected at the end of a long Saturday night and delivered with a beer and a shot. “Sometimes” picks up the pace again and still storytelling at its finest; Nichols is a modern-day troubadour with lyrics that ring familiar and strike a chord with the listener, as good songs always do.
“Go Easy”, the closing song on the album, is part country, part gospel, part ballad. Among long-time Lucero fans who don’t care for the Memphis influence this song will be the example of why. This song is big, it builds with horns, backing vocals and piano into a big song, one that seems far away from the simple story-telling Lucero fans have known in the past.
Here is where Lucero will also gain some fans, the evolution of Lucero’s songwriting and the influence of an entire genre contained within the city limits of Memphis, Tennessee can be heard in “Go Easy”, it’s not just influence, it’s a reflection of Memphis and it’s darn well written and heartfelt, which is Lucero all the way.
Lucero is at SXSW this week and then spends the next several months touring North America in support of Women & Work (click here for tour dates). As with previous releases the album is available on vinyl as well digital format from both the Lucero website and your usual music sources.
by Meredith Underhill