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Lucero – Nobody’s Darling

The words “Southern Rock” might evoke a certain Lynyrd Skynyrd image in most brains, but don’t worry. On Lucero‘s fourth full-length and first on their own imprint, Liberty & Lament, there’s not a rebel flag in sight, just good heart-pounding rock’n’roll and heart-wrenching ballads, with an indie spirit, punk-rock scars, country heart and a soul that couldn’t have come from anyplace but Memphis, Tennessee.

Even the war referenced in the wrenching closer “The War” isn’t the American Civil War, but World War II. It’s the story of a nice southern boy drafted to fight someone else’s war, and shows singer/lyricist Ben Nichols’ ability to create a character and make you feel his pain in a way that’s been perfected by David Bowie, Shane McGowan, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits, to name a few.


Sonically, Lucero evokes everything from Bruce to Johnny Cash, Nirvana to something all their own. Nichols’ whiskey-and-cigarettes voice is backed on this album by their hardest-rocking material yet, leaving behind the country of their self-titled record and indie flirtation of their most recent, and finding something more timeless. Archetypal characters play amid pulsing drums, bass imitating engines racing down I-40, and guitars that pluck at your heartstrings.

For those of you who like the pretty ones, there’s the aforementioned “The War,” and the beautiful lament “Nobody’s Darlings,” a more personal song that evokes the loneliness of the touring band. Springsteen fans too ashamed to admit it will love “Bike Riders,” and for the bittersweet nights drowning your sorrows, there’s “Last Night in Town” and “California.”

Lucero works so well because their emotion never sounds phony or angsty, and they don’t bother trying to fit into any musical trend. They’ve taken whiskey, Mississippi, exhaust from a motorcycle, a tour van, Marlboro smoke and the shreds of several broken hearts and mixed them with just enough tradition to make a sound you won’t get tired of, and enough “fuck you” attitude to share the stage with punk rock bands.

Like their previous records, Nobody’s Darlings is a keeper. Buy it, put it in the deck of a convertible Mustang and drive around at night with the top down while singing along. I did.


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