Beer-soaked, bourbon-bruised and heavy-hearted, Lucero have always stumbled beautifully across the boundaries of country, rock and punk. They sing about the girls they've loved and lost, and all the miles they've traveled and drinks they've downed trying to forget them.
On their recent release, "Women and Work," they continue to wear their hell-bent hearts on their tattooed sleeves. Though there seems to be a new glimmer of hope in their songs when it comes to the "Women," in reality it's the "Work" that defines Lucero as a band. Averaging more than 200 days a year on the road, the idea of holding down a relationship isn't exactly easy.
On the title track of the new record, singer Ben Nichols seems to sum up the disparities with the words: "One shot of women/one shot of work/one shot is sweeter/but they both can hurt."
"It's funny," says guitarist Brian Venable. "Ben introduces that song every night and says, 'This song is called "Women and Work," it's about whiskey.'"
He laughs at the singer's choice of words.
"It's just a drinking song. In our minds, it's nice to have a lady, but what we do for work is ridiculously amazing, so we'll stick with whiskey."
This month, Lucero celebrate their 14th year together as a band, an achievement that Venable seems quite aware of.
"I made a comment that this is our most mature record, and sometimes that's a dirty word in rock 'n' roll," he says. "But for us, we're more comfortable saying 'Hey, this is what we like.' We're not going to make 'Tennessee' [the band's second album] over and over again. We're trying to become part of the Memphis music scene."
'Tennessee' to Memphis
Doubling in size from a four-piece to an eight-piece, Lucero recently enlisted Rick Steff (piano/organ/
accordion), Todd Beene (pe-dal steel) and Jim Spake and Scott Thompson (horns) to create a more fleshed-out, big-band, honky-tonk, Memphis-soul kind of sound.
"For me, it's a conscious combination of the Sun Studios and Stax Studios sounds," says Nichols. "The horns can be soulful, but they can also be the sound of early rock 'n' roll. I wanted to incorporate my love of early R&B and early rock 'n' roll in a more overt way, and that is Memphis. By taking what we have always done and integrating a great Memphis piano player and horns as well as pedal steel, I think we were able to make a kind of country soul record that hopefully just sounds like rock 'n' roll. I think there is a sheer enjoyment and appreciation of having such great musicians in my band. I'm having more fun playing now than I ever have before. And that is mainly because of the guys I'm playing music with."