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Your Country's Right Here: Lucero Showcases 'Women & Work'

Ben Nichols, frontman of the punk alt-country band Lucero, talks like a man who has been musically reborn.

Or maybe it’s more apt to liken his attitude to that of someone who worked and worked and then finally solved the New York Times‘ Saturday crossword puzzle ” in ink, first time through. Sure Lucero has always had a cool punk, alt-country sound that won them fans well beyond the band’s Memphis, Tenn., home base. But now think of Lucero’s punk, alt-country sound as super charged, thanks to the addition of new players and instrumentation. You can hear it all on the band’s new release Women & Work, on ATO records, home of the Drive-By Truckers, My Morning Jacket, and other like-minded musicians.

“When we [recorded] Women & Work all eight pieces had been on the road for a couple years,” said Nichols of the group’s cohesive musical direction. “We had time to gel, as a complete unit and it was the first time everyone had been involved [in recording a Lucero record] since day one. We had discovered what was possible and went into this record knowing exactly where we stood and exactly what sound we were going for.”

Not that Nichols and the other original members of the 14-year-old band didn’t have the determination or talent or enthusiasm to find that musical sweet spot before. It’s just that, like solving a puzzle, they needed to find the key to the tricky questions. In this band’s case, it was how to whip Otis Redding soul into Lucero’s punk country sound and have a pleasing result.

Which brings us to Women & Work. Pump up the band’s punk rock sensibilities by adding sax and trumpet, flavor the alt country with keyboards and pedal steel and sprinkle liberally with soul and you have an idea of what you’ll hear on the band’s eighth studio album. Or, for Nichols and his band mates, the solution to a tricky puzzle.

And did we mention the other elements, including a gospel choir? You won’t hear it in every song, of course. The album starts with the rocker “On My Way Downtown” which shifts into lilting vocals and then accelerates into punk rock. But tune into “Go Easy” and you’ll hear the female gospel chorus wind around Lucero’s soul-country sound. Nichols likens it to Sunday morning worship after a week full of “women and work.”

“You can call it alt-country, American, whatever, rock ‘n roll, what you want to call it,” said Nichols of the band’s genre. “But this made us realize that whatever we had been doing, we had a certain soulful quality to it. It give us a little more depth, another layer of intensity. This is a new direction, a new inspiration, and this is just the starting point.”

And what of the naysayers who gripe that the new sound isn’t as raw or indie as past Lucero efforts?

“I really don’t care,” said Nichols. “I’ve never made a record where there haven’t been [complaints]. We are doing what we do with a contemporary Memphis soul sound. People will catch up. But I’m not waiting for them.”

Find out more about the band and its music on the Lucero website.

Watch Lucero in the studio recording Women & Work:

 

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