ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
Women & Work, by Lucero
Lucero jumped on the major label train for their last release, 2009’s stellar 1372 Overton Park. Things didn’t go quite as planned but Lucero are a band that just won’t give up. Good thing, too, as the band are in peak form with a sound that marries their bar band roots with the soulful heritage of their native Memphis.
“Like Lightning” is a great example of how it all comes together. Rick Steff’s boogie-woogie piano opening the song before Brian Venable‘s guitar chimes in and the rhythm section of John Stubblefield and Roy Berry kick in with a heavy beat. And then there are the horns, which add real depth and character to the song.
The title track hearkens back to the bars of Lucero’s youth. A wisened Ben Nichols offers, “Now it’s one shot of women, one shot of work, one shot’s sweeter but both can hurt; Just let it go kid, just let it go.” Of course Nichols ignores his own advice on the rousing “On My Way Downtown,” pleading with a woman to meet him for a drink. “I ain’t looking for forever, I ain’t asking for your hand,” he sings, “I’m just on my way downtown, And I thought I’d take a chance.”
I love the burning intensity of “I Can’t Stand to Leave You,“ all the more so for the restraint in the band’s performance. They prove equally skilled on “It May Be Too Late,” a ballad that bristles with a southern soul.
Quite simply, Women & Work is the sound of a band kicking back and having a good time. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Audio Stream: Lucero, “Like Lightning”
(See what other members of the Twangville posse have to say about Lucero’s latest release here.)
See Me Through, Josh Ritter (from the Pytheas Recordings release Bringing In the Darlings)
Love, whether thriving or troubled, has been the inspiration for countless songs. On his recently released ep, Ritter carries on the tradition as he explores the crevices of a failed relationship. While it is hard to say that Ritter finds answers to his questions, there are few artists who tackle them with as much intelligence and thoughtfulness.
Where are the statues, colossal and bronze
That stood at the gates of our great love and kept watch
And now over the hills, over the horizons somebody’s army advances
I had faith in you darlin,’ even when I questioned our chances
Audio Stream: Josh Ritter, “See Me Through”
(See Jeff’s take on Josh Ritter’s latest here.)
On the Banks of the River Where I Died, Anthony D’Amato (from the self-released Paper Back Bones)
There’s a timeless quality to this track from D’Amato’s latest release, like an old folk tune reincarnated for another life. Against a rollicking beat, punctuated by harmonica and rinky-dink piano, D’Amato tells the tale of a fugitive on his last days. “Tell my wife and brothers that I’m sorry, tell my sons and daughters that I tried, all I ask is that you lay my body by the banks of the river where I died.”
Says D’Amato of the track, “I was thinking about what Woody Guthrie would be singing about if he were alive today when I wrote it. I expect he’d be happy about a lot of the progress we’ve made, but he’d sure be disappointed about how little some things have changed.”
Audio Download: Anthony D’Amato, “On the Banks of the River Where I Died”
Get Back, The Right Ons (from the Love Monk release Get Out)
This quintet from Spain knows how to rock. They’ve just unleashed a raucous new record filled with thunderous guitars and pounding beats sweetened by the right amount of vocal harmonies. And as good as they sound on record, they sound even better live. So when is the next US tour, boys?
Audio Download: The Right Ons, “Get Back”
Fourth of July, Dave Alvin (from the Yep Roc Records release Eleven Eleven Expanded Edition)
I’m usually not a fan of re-released “expanded edition” releases, even more so for albums that aren’t even a year old. I’ll make an exception for this one, though, as the bonus live cd is simply spectacular. Alvin and his band the Guilty Ones were clearly in fighting shape as they passed through Ann Arbor, MI in July 2011. They tear through selections from the latest release and a few choice Alvin classics. Here’s the crew performing one of my all-time favorite songs.
Audio Stream: Dave Alvin, “Fourth of July”
Why Would You Not Want to Go There?, Hoots & Hellmouth (from the sonaBLAST! Release Salt)
The Philly folksters offer up a study in contrasts, mixing melancholy and daydreams just as they surround acoustic guitars with an atmospheric glow.
Audio Download: Hoots & Hellmouth, “Why Would You Not Want to Go There?”
You Possess Me, Marvin Etzioni (from the Nine Mile Records release Marvin Country!)
The former Lone Justice guitarist invited an outstanding roster of friends and fellow musicians to join him on this impressive double-release. Duet partners range from Steve Earle to Lucinda Williams to Richard Thompson while the musical cast includes Buddy Miller, Gurf Morlix and Greg Leisz, among others. Pretty darn impressive. I’m partial to this track that features Etzioni’s former bandmate Marie McKee on guest vocals.
Audio Stream: Marvin Etzioni, “You Possess Me”
No Plans, Cold Chisel (from the forthcoming Warner Records release No Plans)
One of Australia’s finest rock and roll bands returns from an extended hiatus (14 years) with a powerhouse new collection. Singer Jimmy Barnes has one of those classic graveled rock and roll voices; his bandmates rock with a steady yet ferocious abandon. “I’m feeling no pain, I got no iPhone plugging into my brain, I’m hanging all alone in the sun, smoking a cigarette, no plans. Yeeeah, fuck you.”
Audio Stream: Cold Chisel, “No Plans”
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.