Lucero

There's a darkness on the edge of Lucero's town. The foursome comes from Memphis, which feels a million miles away from the golden smile of Nashville -- at least in light of a defiantly titled new album, Nobody's Darlings. On the disc, Lucero works solidly in the Uncle Tupelo tradition, dancing around the nexus of country and rock, and singing about hard drinking, small-town suffocation and dumb love. Singer Ben Nichols is able to sound comfortably familiar while making music that is far from comforting. His mix of Will Johnson's lonesome keen and Eric Bachmann's somber rumbling is the band's ear-grabbing centerpiece. If Memphis music has one signifier, it is untainted grit. In keeping with this tradition, Lucero lets the stains show -- bloody lip, cheap haircut and all.
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Christian Schaeffer