Monday, May 21, 2018
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Lucero sets 'em up, knocks 'em down on 'Atlanta'


Lucero's Live from Atlanta



Lucero (Liberty & Lament Records)

The basis of most genuine and sincere Southern rock and country songs: Drinking and the problems caused by drinking and women and the loss and pain caused by women. Stir in a gravelly voiced and whisky-fueled frontman, blistering guitars, and Memphis horns, and you have Lucero, one of the tightest touring groups in the country.

The energy and passion with which Lucero plays is impressively showcased on the newly released Live From Atlanta, a sprawling, 32-song album that serves as both a primer for new fans and bible for the longtime faithful.

Lucero plays up to 200 shows a year on the road and I was lucky enough to catch the rowdy and raucous band at Mickey Finn’s two summers ago. The sweaty and beer-soaked crowd was galvanized by Ben Nichols’ far-from-enigmatic stage presence. His three-minute anthems reach down inside and take hold of that place that’s experienced pleasure and heartbreak, overnight love and 40-hour, work-week despair. It’s thematic, yet pure — not the third-rate stuff Kid Rock or any modern day country artist attempts to channel.

Disc one of Atlanta kicks off with “I Can Get Us Out of Here,” which introduces the band for what it does best: turning around a bad situation with one part hope and two parts spirits.That’s followed by other dashboard thumpers such as “Nights Like These,” “On My Way Downtown,” “Sweet Little Thing,” and “Texas & Tennessee.”

“Tears Don’t Matter Much” sounds like Johnny Cash leading the Replacements with a side of ska and it anchors the second disc with lesser known, yet equally fun tracks like “It Gets The Worst at Night,” “All Sewn Up,” and “Drink Till We’re Gone.”

Lucero just started its tour in support of Atlanta. They have nearby stops in Detroit, Lansing, and Cincinnati. They’re worth the trip, and if you can’t make it, just buy the album because it sounds as good as the real thing.




Gaslight Anthem (Island)

If you loved Gaslight Anthem’s previous albums, chances are you’ll like Get Hurt. It’s a good record, just one unlikely to ignite the true “love” its predecessors did.

There are some real firecrackers here, but there’s a surprising smattering of sleepwalkers, too. Here the ‘experimentation’ translates as a smoothing of the edges, a dimming of the Gaslight. For comparison, rewind to 2012’s Handwritten. The opener “45,” a valentine to the elixir called rock and roll.

Ten seconds in, Fallon unleashes one of the most infectiously inspirational, ecstatic caterwauls in recent memory, “WAAAAAH!” Pure, unadulterated abandon. The sound at the top of the roller coaster. Get Hurt needed more of that “WAAAAAH” spirit. It’s smart to move forward just be careful what you leave behind.




Jenny Lewis (Warner Bros.)

The clock is ticking on The Voyager, California alt-pop songwriter Jenny Lewis’ first solo album in six years. “When I look at myself all I can see, I’m just another lady without a baby,” the 38-year-old former Rilo Kiley front woman sings on “Just One of the Guys,” the album’s lead single about never being able to fit into the indie-rock boys club.

In “Head Underwater,” she remains guarded while hinting at anxiety attacks induced by contemplations of mortality.

That tension roils beneath the surface on The Voyager, which looks back on past travels (“Late Bloomer,” about a teenage sojourn to Paris) and relationships gone wrong (the fabulous “She’s Not Me,” the not-so-good “The New You”) and right (“Love You Forever”). With flourishes and sweet harmonies, the 10-song collection is so smoothly produced — mostly by Ryan Adams, partly by Beck — that you might not notice the trouble lurking.

It’s a far more successful move into glossy yet substantive grown-up pop than was Rilo Kiley’s 2007 failed Fleetwood Mac move, Under the Blacklight, and it’s nice to have Lewis back in action. But The Voyager is not quite the out-of-this-world comeback Lewis fans were waiting for.

—DAN DELUCA, Philadelphia Inquirer

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