Happy In Bag

Friday, July 29, 2005


My review of the new Lucero CD for Punknews.com follows. Kansas City-area fans of the loud twang sound should also know that Pendergast is performing in August Mondays at Blayneys and Tuesdays at Mike's Tavern. As with the featured Lucero release, Pendergast's The Truth About Saturday Night is very good.

The four guys in Lucero are smart. They realized from the get-go that America is drowning in a sea of post-Uncle Tupelo alt-country acts. So rather than directly compete with those bands, these Memphis boys focused on building their audience by playing on punk and indie-rock bills.

Kids who don’t know Steve Earle from Merle Haggard heard a fresh sound. And playing before unsuspecting audiences undoubtedly made the boys tough.

Now, with a big-time producer, major label money, and five years of maturation, Lucero comes into their own on their fourth CD. And just who are they? Well, they’re close kin to The Drive By Truckers and The Bottle Rockets. In fact, the Southern accents of Nobody’s Darlings are more emotionally direct than the Truckers. And Bottle Rockets fans have been hoping for a new release this great for a decade.

Based on the dueling guitars blueprint perfected by the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and of course, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Nobody’s Darlings does this legacy proud. A few songs, like Anjalee, are as solid as hits by The Kings of Leon and the Black Crowes. Sixteen is an obvious tribute to The Replacement’s Sixteen Blue. Nobody’s Darling producer Bruce Dickinson oversaw The Replacement’s Pleased To Meet Me, and it’s clear that Lucero went to school on both it and Let It Be. Dickinson’s production is simultaneously nasty and clean; something the band’s previously releases lacked. Even Bikeriders, a stab at Epitaph-style punk, is haunted by Free Bird's ghost.

At certain moments, Nobody’s Darlings sounds like the world’s best rock band playing to fifteen drunks at a dingy club in Arkansas. It’s well after midnight, and although their set could have ended an hour ago, they’re still playing for that one lost soul stumbling through the room who knows, just like they do, that his life depends on reaching that next chorus.

There’s not a single thing on Nobody’s Darling that hasn’t been done before. But that doesn’t make it any less honest or affecting. It’s a near classic companion on exuberant Saturday nights and shaky Sunday mornings.

The indie kids who embraced the band years ago will be startled when Lucero finds its natural audience, the NASCAR cap and Ford truck crowd. Let’s hope both sides understand that Lucero’s worth sharing.


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