Finally, after all the talk, all the speculation and all the handwringing over majors and horns, Lucero’s sixth studio album, 1372 Overton Park, is released! It almost seems impossible to write about this album without talking about the questions surrounding it from long-time friends. At the same time, it almost feels selfish to rehash them over and over again. Is Lucero required to stay within their fans’ safe zones? If that’s the case, is it fair to the band? Simple fact is, fair or not, the words “major label debut” and “horns” have made a lot of fans more than a little nervous about the future of this beloved rambling crew from Memphis. And when that was topped by Ben’s (and to a lesser sense, the band’s) appearance on the MTV faux-reality series $5 Dollar Cover, many of the original fans started to mumble the words “sell” and “out”, usually in that order. If any of these concerns even registered with the band itself they’ve handled in pretty typical Lucero fashion, by forging straight ahead making their music the way they want it made, and now that the official release date is upon us the only question that matters is whether you like it or not.
Having pre-ordered the album, I got the six song sampler many months ago, and having the internet I’ve had the full-length leak almost as long and I will admit, at first I didn’t like it. Not because of the horns or any of that crap, but for some reason I never seem to like a new album from an artist I enjoy the first couple of times I hear it. It’s a character flaw I’m sure, but after that initial period I was still on the fence about the sampler. Then came the full-length leak and access to “Mom”. “Mom” was the initial track to grab me and open my ears to the rest of the cd. “Mom” is one of those classic show-closing acoustic anthems that Ben’s so good at writing, and I can only imagine that it’s taken the place of “The War” as the last song of the night. As an avid fan of hearing “The War” live it’s a little sad for me, but I must admit that “Mom” is worthy of the slot. After “Mom” the songs just started falling in place, and after a week’s time I realized I loved the album, the production, and I’ll be god damned if I didn’t love the horns too. Another one of the standout tracks on the album for me is “Sixes and Sevens”. It might be one of my favorite tracks ever by the band and would easily fit into the Rebels, Rogues and Sworn Brothers tracklisting without any tweaking, while “Darken My Door” is as sad a song as the guys have ever written.
My natural reaction is to try and write a review defending the horns. Hell, if I’ve typed, “Really, once you stop listening to the horns and listen to the album you’ll find that it’s a Lucero album through and through” once, I’ve typed it fifty, and that’s the truth. 1372 Overton Park isn’t Lucero reinventing itself, and if you line the cd’s up and listen in chronological order I think it becomes pretty obvious that this is the next logical step in their evolution. Will they lose some of their old fans? Probably, but I appreciate that the band is willing to take that risk to follow their musical path. Will this album propel them to super-stardom? Hard to say. It’s got the production and the hooks. If there was a track on the album that I thought could capture the interest of the public, I’d have to say it’s “What Are You Willing To Lose”, and if ever there was a band that’s earned a little star power it’s Lucero…even if it means I end up losing my cool little band that I get to see a couple of times a year with 200 of my closest friends through music.
Without hesitation, I put this album on the ninebullets.net essential listening list, and now that I’m intimately familiar with the cd I have to say it’s a strong contender for album of the year.
REMINDER FOR THE TAMPA/ST. PETE FOLKS. THERE IS A LISTENING PARTY TONIGHT @ VINYL FEVER. COME OUT.