Lucero at Rough Trade East
Guitarist/singer Ben Nichols and instrumentalist Rick Steff of country rock band Lucero played a short live set at Rough Trade East last week, celebrating and promoting the release of their 10th album Women & Work. Despite the album being their most instrumentally layered and populous, this gig was simply two men, a guitar and an accordion, and the results were both good and bad.
Lucero’s music, while geographically born in Memphis, is a product of country and southern rock by way of soul. Nichols’ vocals and narratives are reminiscent of Springsteen or Steve Earle. In their best moments, these influences as played on stone-grinding, overdriven slide guitars and with a jazzy horn section produce a feeling of a warm, whiskey-soaked barroom and of workmen in plaid-shirts, holding a brew and dancing with their sweethearts. Think The Pogues but less ‘drunk’, or a cowboy Sublime.
Admittedly, the stripped-down instrumental lines allowed for Nichols’ voice to shine…though only for the opening two songs. Once the sensation of repetition in the songs set in, it began to feel as if this gravelly tone was rather forced and became a little trying, lacking in a feeling of genuine emotion.This sensation of repetition and of creeping tedium, and a lack of uniqueness in Lucero’s work, was also clear minutes in the set. Of course, it is presumably difficult to play such a small gig for only a dozen or so punters. After a couple of tracks from the album Who You Waiting On and Women & Work, interests started to wane.
As an album, Women & Work is probably Lucero’s best, but it probably isn’t one you’ll be playing all that often, save for in the distant background. As a live group, Lucero would likely have been more interesting, and certainly for longer gigs, as a full band.
For further information and future events visit Lucero’s official website here.
Watch the video for I Can’t Stand to Leave You here: