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Lucero – Photo: Bob Bayne

Lucero’s ‘When You Found Me’

Sets The Artistic Benchmark For 2021

By Rob Dickens

Lucero frontman and songwriter Ben Nichols is originally an Arkansan but moved to nearby Memphis Tennessee early on. The music scene there captivated him and before long Lucero (‘Loose-air-o’) was born and the band has over the past twenty years enjoyed sustained (albeit gradual) success, a stable line-up and worthy acclamation.

With a voice sounding like whiskey poured over sandpaper, Nichols does what the rest of this five-piece ensemble accomplishes, displaying a cohesive craft that makes their no-frills music sound far simpler than it is. They create a sound that resonates immediately with hooks and riffs that seem to flow effortlessly. Other examples of this phenomenon spring to my mind – fellow country/punk rockers The Bottle Rockets, alt. country legends The Dream Syndicate and even the Neil Young/Crazy Horse stellar output.

For their tenth studio album, When You Found Me racks up another glorious record, building on 2018’s excellent Among The Ghosts, the latter being the point where yours truly finally came to his senses and joined the fan club (I probably would seek high office in that worthy institution there if anyone would have me). 

“I wanted a very classic rock sound for this album,” says Nichols. “I wanted it to sound like stuff I heard on the radio growing up. I didn’t want to make a retro record at all, but I did want to reference some of those sounds and tones and moods. I think we struck a nice balance between nostalgia and something that still sounds like contemporary Lucero.”

The careful use of synthesizers adds a new twist here with ten-year keyboardist Rick Steff providing some wonderful cinematic atmosphere in which the band is well skilled, having recorded music for every movie made by Ben’s brother, acclaimed filmmaker Jeff Nichols, whose credits include Mud, Midnight Special and Shotgun Stories.

When You Found Me was recorded over two weeks in July of 2020 at the famed Sam Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis. The almost equally renowned Matt Ross-Spang, a long-time friend of the band who also produced the last album at the same venue, signed on again as producer and engineer. “I don’t think he often records with a lot of synthesizers,” Nichols says, “but he’s a natural and was able to get all the sounds we wanted on the album while making sure we stayed true to ourselves.”

The band had not rehearsed since COVID-19 took hold and, during the recording session, masks were worn the entire time, quarantining among themselves and managing to stay healthy. In addition to Nichols and Steff, the group comprises Brian Venable on guitar, John C. Stubblefield on bass, and Roy Berry on drums.

Nichols has become a husband and father, a major shift in his life which is reflected in the subject matter on When You Found Me. Nichols says his daughter Izzy, now four, is the centre of his universe and influences everything he does.

Not surprisingly, family is in fact one of the recurring and compelling threads of this collection. The opening track, “Have You Lost Your Way” invokes a mythical world that was inspired by the bedtime stories Nichols had been reading to his daughter. “Outrun The Moon” is another tune written from the perspective of a young girl (see clip below).

The sombre “Coffin Nails” tells the story of Nichols’ grandfather dealing with the death of his own father, a veteran of World War 1 – “I weigh my deeds on my father’s scales”

“Pull Me Close Don’t Let Go,” a droning, hypnotic tune, was inspired by words spoken to Nichols by his daughter while “All My Life ” and the title track are unembarrassed odes to his wife and daughter.

Ben Nichols (c) with singer/songwriter Anne McCue and broadcaster/journalist Brian Wise at AmericanaFest 2018 – Photo: LTTL

When You Found Me finds a band at the top of its game and sets the bar very high for other records to follow in 2021.

Hmm, I wonder if there really IS a Lucero Official Fan Club???

There’s a recent, insightful interview with Nichols on the excellent Joe Pug podcast The Working Songwriter from your favourite pod store.


Via Jo Corbett Publicity




We review Lucero’s new release

We review Lucero’s new release

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Author: Rob Dickens

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