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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lucero - 1372 Overton Park

A while back, I named 1372 Overton Park as one of the albums coming out this fall that I was most excited to hear. Especially given the strength of the lead single "Hey Darlin' Do You Gamble," I came into this album with high hopes for excellence. On the other hand, I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop with Ben Nichols' voice for years now, and I was afraid that one day he'd trash it and it just wouldn't come back (his backing vocals on "Constructive Summer" on The Hold Steady's 2008 excellent Stay Positive gave me pause). Those fears, thankfully, while certainly not obliterated, have been dulled for the time being, much like the senses and higher brain functions of the band members on any given night they're out on tour (see "Can't Feel a Thing").

The first song, "Smoke," is notable for the inclusion of some Hold Steady-esque piano in the first minute or so. A change of pace for sure, but not all that surprising I suppose given Nichols' work with Craig Finn and company. "Mom" is another standout, just a fantastic ballad and a fine closer for the album. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention "What Are You Willing to Lose?," a sort of call to live life on your own terms, understanding that your path probably isn't going to be easy.

As for the addition of the horns, I don't think their inclusion is a negative. Expanding the sound a 'lil bit, nothing wrong with that. As for moving to a major, this effort doesn't feel overproduced or sterile, so those concerns were allayed. It's just really, really good Southern punk-tinged rock'n'roll. After seven albums, ten years and well over a thousand shows, the boys of Lucero may just now be hitting their stride.

(Also, they're on Twitter. Gotta love that.)

(And this article on Ben Nichols is a pretty good read.)


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