One band that really embodies the old saying of “practice makes perfect,” is the country-punk rock group Lucero. They’ve been bringing their distinctly Memphis sound all over North America since 1998, all while keeping their original lineup, which is pretty impressive for bands in their genre.
Dubbed one of the hardest working bands of the past decade, Lucero performs about 250 shows a year, honing a unique sound and maturing lyrically. Their latest album, All A Man Should Do, released last month is testament to these sharpened skills and is a gritty synthesis of soul, rock and country that’s distinctly Memphisian.
"I was 15 years old in 1989,” said Ben Nichols, the lead guitarist and vocalist. “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."
You see, practice makes perfect. Lucero has worked on this new album with producer Ted Hutt (for the third time) and recorded at the famous Ardent Studios, experimenting with soulful elements like tinkling pianos and vibrant horns, while maintaining that rough-around-the-edges style that fans have known to love. Lucero still maintains the soul roots of their hometown of Memphis, Tenn., just with a more polished sound that comes with a bigger band and more hands in the production studio. Overall, it’s a massive improvement over their last album, Women and Work.
Backing Nichols’ iconic gruffy vocals is Roy Berry on the drums and John Stubblefield on bass. Rick Steff’s responsible for the swooning sounds of the accordion, organ and piano on this new album, which contributes to its slightly romantic-pop feel. It’s the “softest” Lucero album to date, but some tracks, like “Can’t Wait To Hear Them Howl,” send slight nods to their past rowdiness with background horns and a catchy chorus in Nichols’ signature Southern drawl.
Lucero’s passion for genuine songwriting is still strong in All A Man Should Do as well, but it’s undergone a softer makeover. Nichols still sings with his raspy, monotone growl, but weaves tales of heartbreak, loneliness and growing up. The song “My Girl & Me in ‘93” is a dreamy, charming love story that can take you back to your first relationships. It perfectly captures the exciting, fluttering feelings of first love.
Lucero’s new album has many sides to it, and each song might strike a personal chord with different people. There’s the fast paced, Southern punk jam side and the wallowing in heartache sad bastard ballad side. There’s a road trip vibe with “Went Looking For Warren Zevon's Los Angeles” and the whimsical romantic vibe with the highly hummable “I’m In Love With A Girl.”
There’s plenty to get emotionally attached to when Lucero brings their melodic sounds of the South, to Portland this Saturday.
Lucero | Port City Music Hall, Portland | Saturday, Oct. 10; doors at 8:00pm, show at 9:00pm | www.portcitymusichall.com