My latest musical obsession is Lucero, a band from Memphis that has been around since the early 2000s but that I discovered only recently. I was hooked by the first track on their eponymous first record, a tune called “Little Silver Heart” that is unmistakably a rock song but has an undercurrent of country reminiscent of some Replacements’ songs (“Waitress in the Sky” comes to mind). Click here to listen to “Little Silver Heart.”
Lucero (2001) is a strong record with several other excellent tracks, most notably “My Best Girl,” a lovesick tune about a guy and his guitar (click here to listen to it). When front-man Ben Nichols sings “The only girl a boy can trust is his guitar,” he synthesizes the lyrical theme of the first several Lucero records. I haven’t been dumped by a girl since the late 1980s, and yet I still keep coming back to this band which speaks, I think, to the emotional depth of the music. It taps into some kind of universal pensiveness that resonates no matter the actual words being sung.
In addition to the Replacements, Lucero is clearly influenced by Nirvana. “No Roses No More” off Lucero sounds like a blend of “Something in the Way” and “Rape Me.” Nichols’ tinny, wailing vocals are eerily reminiscent of Kurt Cobain as is his melancholy, stripped-down electric guitar. Click here to see what I’m talking about.
After listening to Lucero, I figured I had heard the best the band had to offer. I find that a lot of times a band’s first record is their best. That is certainly not universally true, but it works as a rule-of-thumb (The Police’s Outlandos D’Amour is the quintessential example of this for me). A band can spend years honing their first record as they wait for a record deal to hit. And when it does, they have to put together another record in short order and find themselves on the creative treadmill thereafter. But Lucero’s second record, Tennessee (2002), is also impressive. Again, Track 1, “Sweet Little Thing,” starts the record off on the right foot with shades of Hüsker Dü’s plush, distortion-filled guitars on the chorus (click here to listen to it). But my favorite track on Tennessee is “Here at the Starlite” (click here to listen to it). It bristles with riffs and power chords and sports a nice little guitar solo near the end (if I were the producer, I would have made the solo an outro and ended it there).
Lucero’s 2006 release, Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers, is another strong record. “San Francisco” is the standout track. Click here to check it out.
Lucero’s later records lose me a bit with their introduction of horns. I like horns as much as the next rock fan, but their use on these records changes the feel of the music in a way that I don’t love. I would start with Lucero’s first few albums and work your way forward in time. Enjoy!