Memphis, Tennessee’s musical roots have shown up in Lucero’s previous records. With Women & Work, they’ve written and recorded a formal 10-song love letter to the place they’re from. The 9th full length record (if you’re including the 2005 documentary soundtrack, Dreaming in America) is a pitch-perfect southern rock soundscape channeled through with Memphis’ soul and whole lotta swagger.
The songs on Women & Work are the culmination of many years fine tuning a road tested, working man’s band that’s stayed together. They’ve added key members along the way to flesh out a fully realized sound with Women & Work. The addition of band member Rick Steff around 2005’s Rebels, Rogues, and Sworn Brothers on keys comes to full fruition on this release. Steff’s performance on keys coupled with brass arrangements by Jim Spake & Scott Thompson steals the show, though, Ben Nichol’s compositions are a touch sweeter, mature, complete with whiskey stained vocal undercurrents. He sings on When I Was Young: Now in the lonesome of the night I wake, no names do I call / And in the lonesome of the night I drink, to all the loves I’ve lost / Oh the days I let slip away / I was fierce and wild in love when I was young
Regrets, loves lost, and well-worn working class wisdom marks most of the songs lyrics but it’s the band that truly shines here, capturing Memphis’ cross roads of musical influences in under 40 minutes; listen to that the ragtime piano that dances throughout the title song, and on closer Like Lightning; the brass horns on On My Way Downtown, and slow-burning beauty, It May Be Too Late; the gospel swagger that kicks in on the 3 minute mark of I Can’t Stand To Leave You. In younger musician hands, or those of an inept producer seeking ways to turn straight up rock n’ roll songs into something they need not be, these are songs that would suffer from a lack of attention or crafting care. Producer Ted Hutt (Gaslight Anthem, Horrible Crowes, Dropkick Murphy, a founding member of Flogging Molly) returns to steer Lucero here after 2009’s 1372 Overton Park, and it’s his steady attention to this record’s details that pushes Lucero into making a career highlight record.
Women & Work is a road tested rock n’ roll record that bands used to be unafraid to make without f*cking it all up with studio trickery to sound different. It’s hard not to imagine Seger’s Silver Bullet Band, or Springsteen’s E-Street machine forced to take a slow-down and swagger pill, channeled through a Memphis studio in 2012. Though, there’d be no need for those bands to pass through knowing Lucero is covering those grounds pretty well. The city of Memphis, the women they’ve loved and the jobs they’ve held down, should be proud to add their hometown band to a list of music’s great influences that came from Memphis or simply passed through on their way to everywhere else.
Andy Whorehall (SM)
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