“I was 15 years old in 1989. This record sounds like the record I wanted to make when I was 15. It just took 25 years of mistakes to get it done,” says Lucero frontman Ben Nichols ahead of the band’s eleventh and, arguably, most poignant record to date. The sense of self-introspection that a statement like that suggests is prevalent throughout a record which carries a real feeling of growing up. That’s not to suggest that lyrically Lucero have settled down, but the idea that answers to long held questions on life, love and loss finally need addressing is apparent through questions, observations and considerations weaving in and out of each track.
Stylistically, the music is every bit the development you’d expect from a band who’ve gone from scruffy country-punk to adding a horn section 6 years ago and surreptitiously morphing into a staple of the blue-collar rock ‘n’ roll scene. Despite that progression, Lucero have never lost their sense of identity – the songs are still smothered in cheap whiskey and cigarette smoke – but you don’t last this long in an ever-changing musical industry without getting a little bit slicker with each passing record.
The danger with throwing together songs that are this heartfelt is that you risk alienating an audience that perhaps haven’t or couldn’t possibly hope to share the experiences they’re based on. There’s a fine line between heart-on-sleeve and self-indulgence and Nichols rides it expertly with further tales of regret and repentance. The idea of waking up “angry at the world and all alone” (‘I Woke Up In New Orleans’) is something most of us have done and will elicit a sage-like nod and a sense of empathy that makes the song even easier to buy into. The horn section on the aforementioned song adds to the sense of melancholy and further serves to get the listener on-side.
In a world where it’s still considered the done thing to overstretch the truth and milk a situation for all its worth, it’s increasingly refreshing to hear a band like Lucero laying themselves bare and sharing their lives in such an honest and endearing manner. The closing pair of Big Star’s ‘I’m In Love With A Girl’ and ‘Me And My Girl In ‘93’ sum them up perfectly. “Look me in the eyes and tell me one more time, you love, you need me, you’ll always be mine,” pleads Nichols, and I think it’s fair to say that the feeling continues to be mutual from those listening in.
‘All A Man Should Do’ by Lucero is out now on ATO Records.
Words by Rob Fearnley.