Nine albums and 20 years into their career, Lucero has stripped down their Memphis sound and returned primarily to their guitar/rhythm/keys basics on their latest, Among The Ghosts.
Despite origins in the late 1990s, much of the early songs on Ghosts have a late 80s/early 90s feel, perhaps owing to the band members’ formative years. The lead song and title track features Rick Steff’s 80s-ish keyboard bed under new father Ben Nichols’ road tale of missing his family – speaking of his young daughter, “The first word that she learned to say was goodbye.” The next song, “Bottom of the Sea”, moves on to an early 90s, alternative vibe.
Soon enough, though, the band gets back to the grungy Americana sound we’ve come to know, with gothic tales to match. “Everything Has Changed” gives us a broken man and an ink-worthy line: “Ain’t no fire can burn up my mistakes.” “Always Been You” bends that promise back by begging, “Tell me it’s always been me.” The band’s Southern roots show through with (Civil?) war songs “Cover Me” and “My Dearest Wife.” The former features stand-out guitar work from Brian Venable. The latter brings in a martial rhythm from dummer Roy Berry and bassist John C. Stubblefield under a soldier’s letter home to his wife interspersed with lyrics from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” (an anthem of the North, curiously enough).
The album includes a couple of positive notes toward the end. “Loving”, the tune that Nichols penned for the movie of the same name (directed by his brother, Jeff), follows the true-life tale of Mildred and Richard Loving, a mixed-race couple combatting Virginia’s miscegenation laws in the 1960s. Nichols’s lyrics capture what really matters in love (and life): “It might not be good enough for them/But I just wanna be good enough for you.” (Theatrical in a different sense – “Back To The Night” includes an eerie spoken-word cameo from Jeff Nichols vet Michael Shannon). Rounding out the album, “For The Lonely Ones” brings the horns back to Lucero’s sound. The song, while not actually optimistic, at least brings a note of empathy to 2018 America: “We ain’t the only ones down and out.”
Co-produced and engineered by Grammy Award winner Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price, Drive-by Truckers), Among the Ghosts was recorded at the historic Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis. Ben Nichols’ spare, thoughtful lyrics and Lucero’s pared-down sound breathe new life and fresh ideas into Southern rock. Get your copy, here. http://luceromusic.com/