The dominant narrative will likely go: Lucero’s new mostly acoustic EP Texas & Tennessee is a return to “Old Lucero”–another batch of the chest-twisting hooks of “Raising Hell” and the suppressed sobs dug out in “Slow Dancing.” However, I find the Old/New Lucero dichotomy uninteresting and unproductive. What I think is interesting is a discussion of how the title song “Texas & Tennessee” relates to a 1928 Jimmie Rodgers blue yodel called “T for Texas” which contains the lyrics “‘T’ for Texas, ‘T’ for Tennessee / ‘T’ for Thelma, the gal that made a wreck of me.” “T for Texas” has been covered by the Everly Brothers, Waylon Jennings, Townes Van Zandt, Lynyrd Skynyrd and a bunch others. Fucking interesting, right?
But the great appeal of Lucero doesn’t rest on that probably overstated reference, or their knowledge of what Townes Van Zandt’s pick-up line was to his wife, or their narrative of the migration of rock and roll from Buddy Holly in Texas to Otis Redding in Memphis; rather it’s built on lines like “You don’t have to tell me how it feels not to be in love / that was my oldest game / that was my claim to fame” and the funeral interplay of guitar, keys, and horns in “Union Pacific Line.” Whether or not you think those qualities have been on display in the last couple albums, they’re certainly what’s emphasized here. This EP holds up and I hope it provides a space for New Lucero doubters to consider how textured their progression as a band has been and move away from that false dichotomy of pre-brass and post-brass. Good listeners will, of course, find the love they give returned in it.