Well, I guess it’s my turn. Kasey and RSV have already dropped their faves of the year (here and here) on y’all, so there’s just no avoiding it for me now. This year was particularly difficult due to the sheer amount of great music that came out, and had I made this list tomorrow it would certainly change. That said, you can edit forever but eventually you have to settle on something and call it your list. So, with out further ado I am gonna steal RSV’s formatting and get this show on the road:
This weekend managed to prove once again that I am getting too old to party like a rock star two nights in a row. The whole thing began Friday night where I set out to, and I quote myself here, “get Lucero drunk”, and I am happy to announce that the mission was a complete success. The trade off of that is that recollection of the show is slightly hazy. A lot of the reviews I read leading up to Lucero’s show here were about the crowd. That frat boy concentration levels were reportedly getting dangerously high, but I didn’t really notice it being a problem here in Tampa. That said, the only complaint about the show would have to have been the crowd, but it was a completely expected complaint. See, as a bands popularity and attending crowds grow, the devotion level of the crowd begins to get diluted. While there was no shortage of people at Czar who where there to be seen rather than to see Lucero, they didn’t hurt the quality of what was happening on the stage, so let’s talk about that…and horns.
The band arrived in town in better spirits, shape, and sanity than I’ve ever seen them. That said, the band has a reputation to uphold here in Florida and as the band took the stage the whiskey river started flowing. The band ran through a nice mix of tracks from the new album (with their newly integrated horns) and songs from the new album, 1372 Overton Park. The first twenty feet off the stage were the usual suspects you’d see at a Lucero show, glasses raised, eyes a little glazed and singing every word as if they were the backup singers. My night ended with a stirring version of “Mom” ’cause my wife (and designated driver) had to be at work quite early the next morning, but I stumbled out of Czar drunkenly slurring about how good the band sounded and promptly passed out in the truck. For the uninitiated, that means the show was a complete success.
I am blessed with the inability to get a hangover. It’s a blessing and a curse, but I woke up Saturday morning no worse for wear and started getting ready for Have Gun Will Travel. The group I was supposed to be going to HGWT with slowly declined as the day wore on since most of my friends are not immune to hangovers, and by the time I needed to leave my group had dwindled to being just me. I worried that the Lucero show the night before was gonna have a similar effect on others, making HGWT’s show a sparsely attended event, but those worries we quickly put aside as the crowd continued to grow while Lauris Vidal and Whiskey Gentry played their sets.
I have to admit I missed all of Lauris Vidal and about half of Whiskey Gentry due to interviewing Whiskey Gentry and Have Gun over at Fuma Bellas (look for those to be posted next week) during the concert. I was very excited to see Whiskey Gentry, having known Lauren (singer) from her previous band, Missy Secret and the Gossip Keepers. Whiskey Gentry was way more uptempo, eschewing the “old time country” sound for a bluegrass element. I was told that they were trying to work out an arrangement with HGWT that would get them down this way more often and take HGWT up to Atlanta on a more regular basis. Hopefully that will work out, ’cause these guys had the vibe and energy that could make them become the new Weary Boys for New World. Anyone who ever came to a Weary show at New World knows what I am talking about.
Up next were the stars of the party, Have Gun Will Travel, and by now the crowd had reached the point where I was nothing short of proud of Tampa. The band noticed it too, managing to comment on how awesome it was multiple times throughout the night. Speaking of awesome, HGWT was nothing short of awesome on that Saturday night, playing every song off their new album, Postcards From The Friendly City (call me crazy but I think they played one twice), and all the crowd’s favorites from their previous album, Casting Shadows Tall As Giants. The band played well into the night and the crowd stuck with them through the whole show. I can honestly say that I was not ready for the show to be over as the band walked off stage, which is a rarity for me since it was two in the morning and I still had a 30 minute drive home. I think that’s honestly the highest compliment I can pay the show, that when it was over I wanted more. They’ll be playing around the area quite a bit in the coming weeks/months in support of the cd. You should make a point to catch them a couple of times, they truly one of Tampa’s treasures.
After months of talk 1372 Overton Park will finally come out tomorrow. To mark the occasion the Lucero Social Club is holding listening parties across the United States and Tampa’s is gonna be at Vinyl Fever. There will be free beer, free pizza (courtesy of ninebullets) and some like minded folks hanging out and listening to the album. So, come join us and we can talk about major labels and horns.
It’s a big week here in ninebullets.net land. Our (my) favorite band, Lucero, is officially releasing their sixth album (and first on a major label. Hey! Did you know it has horns? I don’t wanna get into the album too much today as I’ll be posting a piece about the album specifically tomorrow but did you know there are horns on it?
Anyhow, when long time 9b reader/commenter Cliff in England asked if I’d be interested in running an interview he conducted with the boys a few weeks back I jumped at it. Hope y’all enjoy it.
~ Autopsy IV
A Night with the Boys from Lucero (an interview by Cliff England):
Formed in Memphis, Tennessee in 1998, Lucero has been tearing through this country with their punk/rock/country (insert about any aesthetic adjective here) outfit for some time now. Lead vocalist, Ben Nichols, has one of the most distinctive voices in music today. It’s unrefined, rough, and exposed, in other words it is the definition of rock n’ roll. Brian Venable, lead guitarist, and co-founding member does the balancing act. His guitar ranges from solid country blues, to raging rock guitar. Bassist, John C. Stubberfield, and drummer, Roy Berry, round out the quartet with solid layering and depth. Lucero goes beyond skin deep though; Nichols writing sets the tone as raw and emotional as his voice. Life on the fringe seems to be the biggest theme in Nichol’s writing. The words seem to pour out of him with honesty and sincerity like someone decades before his time.
The “Lucero Sound” is hard to characterize, at its core it is a medley of everything great in American music of the last fifty years. The teenage punk angst of Black Flag, a 1970’s Kris Kristofferson country folk tune, and the soul of Springsteen’s Born to Run are all pieces of the Lucero puzzle. Slowly, but surely the band is finding each of those pieces. They are undoubtedly a force helping put Memphis, and everything the home of Elvis Presley embodies, back on the map.
On October 6th Lucero releases their sixth full length record 1372 Overton Park. It marks a change for Lucero, goodbye to their record label and on to the infamous, Universal Republic. Many fans and skeptics are concerned with the jump to a major label. The concern lies in the droves of bands that have made the same leap only to be misguided and left to be a skeleton of their previous selves. The question that lingers now is; on which side of the line will Lucero ultimately land?
That question among many others was asked when I sat down with Brian Venable before their show in Urbana, Illinois at the Pygmalion Music Festival which Lucero was headlining:
CE: So 1372 Overton Park is the New Record right?
CE: You guys lived there for quite a while?
BV: Yea, the four of us from like 8 years ago up until recently. That’s how we we’re able to tour so frequently, the rent was cheap. All living in one spot
CE: All you guys living together I’m bet there is some stories you could tell from that?
BV: Umm probably, I think realistically, you go out for six weeks you come home, the warehouse was huge. Everybody would just kind of splinter off, and not be in the same van for awhile. A lot of drinking, a lot of you know, pretty much we could destroy a garbage pile and shoot with bb guns. Pretty much if your twelve year old self got to live in a place with your friends and do anything you want.
CE: You guys just signed with Universal this last year. Has that brought about any change or anything?
BV: There is a lot more red tape sometimes. It sounds better to your parents. We’re pretty much doing the same thing. I think between the label, and the new producer, they forced us. They wanted demos, which we’ve never really done good demos, like they wanted completed demos. And it forced us to actually concentrate on the songs more before we even went into the studio. Which I think help make it a better record.
CE: You guys had to be a little bit more responsible about the whole thing?
BV: Yes, yes, there were deadlines.
CE: So tell me about the record then, it comes out October 6th right?
CE: There is a lot of talk around the fans and everything about the horns section…
BV: Yea, we’re curious about it. It’s been 50/50 for me looking on the boards. For every person that’s like “ohh this sounds like ska”, which I always assume is some twelve year old kid that likes Rage Against the Machine. That has no concept of what’s going on, like a soul record, or a Bruce Springsteen record, or anyone of them till they get older. Most everybody schools them online, like ‘don’t be dumb’. It’s an exciting progression if you think about it. I went back personally because I had heard bands. I wanted horns on the record not even in a soul way originally. But just in a ‘rock you in the crib’ (sorta way) There was this band from Denver, Hearts of Palm. It’d be exciting to just do this on a one or two songs just mix it up. It ended up working out really well. A friend of mine heard some of the early demos with horns, and he said it sounded real Memphis soul. And you go back all the Lynyrd Skynyrd studio stuff had horns, Alice Cooper’s first three records (had) horns. You know like, you never heard the horns as much until you start concentrating then you’re like ohh wait a minute. It’s like piano, when we introduced piano. People were like, “ehhhhh that’s different,” you know but the saxophone and piano are right there with the birth of rock n roll.
CE: So you guys worked with a legendary saxophonist (Jim Spake), from Memphis right?
CE: How was that?
BV: It was fun, I think he’s Memphis, so I don’t think we don’t necessarily go in thinking “Legendary Saxophonist”. It’s Jim. Which is one of the things about Memphis, stuff happens and nobody gets a big heads or egos about it. Whatever record you’re working on is the most important one at the time.
CE: Speaking of Memphis in that sense, I know there is a big music scene down there. Can you kind of describe what that was about, where you guys came from?
BV: I think it’s always been a real interesting situation. Like, with the 60’s and 70’s you had your Elvis. And then you turn into your, or a lot of times you went to record in Memphis. There wasn’t a lot of artist coming. There were labels, or there was American Records. Wasn’t that what it was called?
RS (Lucero pianist Rick Skeff): Yes.
BV: Like “Dusty Springfield in Memphis” and “Memphis Experience.” You’d have a whole lot of that. And I think the city wants the commerce industry, they were like “OHH ELVIS yeah yeah yeah”, but they’ll miss the entire underground. That was always the joke with Memphis; some of the best bands in the world started, played, and broke up after a year. Maybe put out a seven inch, maybe didn’t even do anything. But we just came out of that huge music scene that is boiling underground that never really goes anywhere.
CE: So any bands out right now around Memphis that you would recommend? Somebody might not get a chance if they’re not in Memphis to check out online.
BV: We’re taking out a few people. Amy LaVere. She plays upright bass. She’s kind of a….I don’t know what a chanteuse is but,
RS: How about a classy woman in a long silk dress, playing sultry tunes.
BV: I always thought it was the color red. But she did that “5$ cover” TV show with Ben and everything. So far from what I’ve heard everybody is really excited about the “Dirty Streets”. They just kind of started. We’re taking them out for a little bit. But I mean they’re so new I haven’t even heard em’. But everyone that has immediately says they sound like the MC5 and they’re amazing. There is like the “City Champs” and they’re kinda like “Booker T & MG’s” soul thing. Then there is always the makeshift people, which is Snowglobe, Jimmy James & the Hall, any kind of number of them. There is just a group of them, like a little community of about 20 people that all play in the same bands.
CE: So it’s like a little community?
BV: Yea, just like that.
CE: You guys have a few more dates around here then you’re heading back to Memphis?
BV: We do Detroit, really Ferndale, which I think is a suburb or something. Then we’ll do Columbus, OH, and then we’re home for two-weeks. Hopefully we’ll spend most of those days practicing.
CE: Big Tour right?
BV: Trying to get the.… We’ll we’ve recorded with the horns but we’ve never actually played live before with them.
CE: So you’re breaking them out for the tour?
BV: Yea, we’re taking the horns out for the fall tour. So it’s going to be a gigantic crazy deal.
CE: How long is that going to go on then?
BV: Six weeks, October 8th to November 21st
The scene was nearly four hours after the interview. Lucero finally walked on stage at nearly one o’clock. By that time the robust crowd at the Canopy Club had dispersed to a dreary, but steadfast hundred or so people. Concern was obvious that the people left were either too drunk to find their way home, or trying to get to that point. All the while it was clear they did not care about the band coming on stage. Doubts and reservations quickly left when the first chords to Lucero’s set started. “Sound of the City”, a new track, quickly got the crowd out of its lull of drunkenness.
Ben humored the crowed by taking multiple shots from concert goers and taking request after request. Lucero essentials like “Nights Like These”, “All Sewn Up”, and “Chain Link Fence” were all played. As well, new Lucero songs “Hey Darlin’ Do You Gamble”, “Darken My Door” and “The Devil and Maggie Charcarillo” were played. The songs set the mood as if it was an early era punk show, then slowed it to a halt with sincerity like a Merle Haggard acoustic set, just as any Lucero studio record can do.
The show was not without its faults. It was evident from the start drummer, Roy Berry, was having problems with his drum kit. Chaos and antics ensued mid way through the set when Roy decided to quit drumming and sat down out of frustration. Then he stood up and sprayed beer all over the stage. After some encouragement from Ben, and rest of the band, Roy decided to saddle up and finish the show. The incident did little to hinder the enjoyment of the show; if anything it affirmed the notion that the band lives up to its’ rock n’ roll persona.
The night was capped off with moving solo performance by Ben of the new song “Mom,” a poignant tale for mothers everywhere. Nichols thanked the audience for staying up so late with the band, and asked what time the bar closed. Pouring their hearts and souls out up on stage, like the most genuine bands before them, the answer was simple; No, Lucero had played past closing time.
Any time a band whose reputation and philosophy were grounded firmly in DiY ideals makes a jump to a major label, there are bound to be concerns about selling out, dumbing down, cleaning up and all of those other concessions that aren’t tolerated among rabid fans and purists. Lucero’s transition from under-the-radar darling to major label act is no different, and while the band’s fans are dedicated enough to be tolerant of departures, they’re also passionate enough not to tolerate any slick bullshit in the name of appealing to a broader demographic (couFiveDollarCovergh). For the first time in their career, Lucero will have more than just raving critics and word of mouth behind them. They’ll have the lumbering – often fumbling – major label machine shoving their record down the listening public’s throat. This is great if the record’s as good as the material Ben Nichols and co. have been cranking out for the last decade, but what if the record sucks?
From the opening piano notes of “Smoke,” which kicks off the free six-song sampler available now with a pre-order of 1372 Overton Park, one thing is clear: Nichols’ affinity for anthemic classic rock is not going to be buried here; it’s right up front. “Smoke” sounds like Tom Petty aping Bruce Springsteen and, which Nichols’ rasp cutting through the pulsating piano, organ and guitars, it works. Springsteen is echoed in the second track, “Sounds of the City,” as well, with the swirling boardwalk organ and Memphis horns propelling Nichols’ tale of bad boys who “know when to push [their] luck.” Somebody’s been listening to Marah records. The addition of a horn section to Lucero’s sound shouldn’t be unexpected or unwelcome by anyone who’s witness the band’s maturation over their last few albums, as piano and organ were added in layers to flesh out Nichols’ bruised and bleak vacant lot anthems. However the band’s sound may have shifted, Nichols’ narrative remains constant, maybe even to a fault.
As “The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo” chugs along, sounding for all the world like a Thin Lizzy B-side, Nichols calls out for Love and Rockets and wrings his hands over punk rock girls and lonely saints. It’s a good tune but how long is Lucero’s audience going to be subjected to – and tolerate – Nichols’ bludgeoning of the “rock ‘n’ roll outcast” horse that was beaten dead about the time Green Day embarked on their first foray into rock operadom. Touching on familiar thematic elements is part of maintaining a dialogue with one’s audience – just ask Springsteen himself, nobody does it better – but that’s a far cry from writing the same song in six different keys, which is damn near what Nichols has done here. Luckily, he’s a good enough writer and compelling enough vocalist that the act isn’t tired — yet. But if, upon release, 1372 Overton Park turns out to be little more than a dozen recitations of “boy meets girl, boy fucks up, boy loseWeight Exercises girl, boy and girl find salvation in rock ‘n’ roll and live scrappily ever after,” Nichols is going to have a lot more to answer for than why Lucero incorporated horns into their tunes.
Until the full album is released, I’m more than willing to suspend judgment – God knows Lucero has earned it. And don’t mistake me, these are not bad songs, quite the opposite. 1372 Overton Park may well end up being the rare example of how to cross over without selling out but it may also show us a band struggling to find new ground while walking in place. For now, new Lucero tunes are better than no Lucero tunes, and these sings songs are good enough to keep expectations for 1372 Overton Park extremely high.
One of my favorite twitter friends, Romeosidvicous, posted a really nice 4 mix-tape introduction to Lucero yesterday and was kind enough to allow me to repost it here on ninebullets. I’ll let him explain the idea behind the tapes:
“I have made many Lucero CDs over the years to turn people on to their music. Today I decided that I would be lazy and simply make three one hour playlists and post them here. Now I can simply give people a URL instead of spending time making plastic discs that people just rip and file away somewhere. Three one hour playlists turned into four playlists as I decided to toss in some of Ben Nichols’ solo work as well as some tracks from his prior band Red 40. I enjoyed putting these together and I hope you will enjoy listening to them. You can get all of the music here, on the original discs, from the Lucero Store.”
Below are the first two. If you enjoy them and want to check out the other two, head over to Romeo’s blog.
I chose “Cowboy Emo” as the name of this compilation due to a rumor of the conversation between Ben and Brian that laid the groundwork for Lucero. I won’t bore you with the whole story but rumor has it that Brian described the music he wanted to play as “Cowboy Emo” during that conversation. I don’t think there’s much emo and not much cowboy in the music but it’s a fitting title nonetheless. The track archives have proper id3 tags and even some horrible cover art I threw together so they should drop nicely into iTunes or whatever you use.
Tracks 1-3 are from the Attic Tapes which was recorded prior to the release of their first album. I have heard this was around 1999 but that could be wrong.
Tracks 4-7 are from the boys self-titled release on Madjack from 2001.
Tracks 8-13 are from Tennessee released in 2002. Coincidently the first Lucero song I ever heard “Sweet Little Thing” was from this album.
Tracks 14-17 hail from That Much Further West which was described by Rolling Stone as “The country album Paul Westerberg never wrote…”. This album was released in 2004.
Tape 2 shows the growth of this band. Only having a line-up change once and going back to the original line-up has proved to be a strong point for the boys. They have grown together musically and listening to Ben’s lyrics mature from fleeting romances to deep desires has been a pleasure over the years. Of course he hasn’t stopped writing songs about drinking either but even those have a touch more maturity to them. Any band that’s been together as long as they have either sounds the same as they did at first or they grow. Lucero took the second route and each album is a little different but after a while you can still tell when there’s a Lucero song on even if you hadn’t heard it before. The first time I got to see them play live it was on the tour supporting Nobody’s Darlings and I have seen them every chance since.
Tracks 1-5 are from Nobody’s Darlings released in 2005.
Tracks 6-11 are from Rebels, Rogues, and Sworn Brothers released in 2006
Tracks 11-14 are from the yet to be released 1372 Overton Park which is due out in October ‘09
Holy. Crap. Talk about getting one in right under the wire. No matter. We’re here. tt’s still July and the podcast is live, so let’s talk about it.
This month’s podcast is divided into two halves. The first half is all about new music. In that section we have a song from the upcoming Lucero cd, 1372 Overton Park, as well as a phenomenal cover of Lucero’s “Better Than This” by ninebullets.net faves, The Fox Hunt. Incidentally, the new Lucero album is currently up for preorder. If you do preorder it, not only will you get the physical cd a few weeks prior to the “official” release date, you’ll also immediately get to download a six song preview of the album (from whence the song on this podcast came). While we’re on the preorder tip, there is a also song on the podcast from the new Chris Knight album, Trailer Tapes II. Like the new Lucero, Chris’ album is up for preorder, but if you preorder it now you’ll get to download a digital copy of the whole album immediately.
I closed this month’s Podcast with a track from Gainesville’s The Takers. Their new album has finally been released and you can get it at all your favorite digital outlets, plus you can read about the album here.
And that does it. Another month comes to pass. I am pretty happy with this month’s podcast and I think y’all will like it. Do me a favor, though. If you listen and you enjoy the show, please tell other people about it. The website’s stats have been increasing this month, but the podcast’s stats have been in decline. I am gonna try to do more advertising of the show this month, but nothing beats word of mouth.
Thanks, everyone. ~Autopsy IV (twitter: @autopsy4)
Drive-By Truckers – Nine Bullets [00.00.00]
Lucero – Hey Darling, Do You Gamble [04.03.00]
The Fox Hunt – Better Than This (Lucero Cover) [08.36.00]
Autopsy IV Commentary [11.56.50]
Truckstop Coffee – Ghost or an Angel [13.00.00]
Drive-By Truckers – Zip City [19.09.00]
Chris Knight – Highway Junkie [24.25.00]
Autopsy IV Commentary [28.57.00]
Matthew Dean Herman – Southern Belle [30.25.00]
American Relay – Bonedry [34.13.25]
Left Lane Cruiser – Amy’s In The Kitchen [37.19.25]
A Night In The Box – Rich Man’s Table [40.38.50]
Autopsy V Commentary [44.07.25]
Davina and The Vagabonds – St. Michael Vs The Devil [44.46.25]
Red Clay River – Rattlesnake Mountain [49.36.00]
Tom VandenAvond – I cant help It If Im Still In Love With You [52.44.00]
Lucero’s new album, 1372 Overton Park, may not be getting it’s official release until October 6th but if you preorder it you’ll be able to get a (6) song sampler from it today. The tracks included on the sampler are:
01. The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo
02. Sounds of the City
03. Hey Darling Do You Gamble?
05. Sixes and Sevens
06. Goodbye Again