Album review: "Women & Work"
By Mark Jenkins
Friday, Apr. 20, 2012
It sounds as though the members of Lucero have finally accepted that they're from Memphis. This veteran roots-punk sextet once dodged its home town's musical heritage but lately has been getting cozier with Sun Records rockabilly and Stax-Volt soul. The band's "Women & Work," its eighth album, follows its predecessor in adding horns to the menu. Sandpaper-voiced singer-songwriter Ben Nichols will never be a sweet soul crooner, but this time he's supported by veteran wind players who once played with Al Green and Ray Charles.
Most of these tunes could slip easily into the playlist of a classic-rock station that specializes in 1970s music. The album incorporates pedal steel, barrelhouse piano and gospel-style backup vocals without skimping on arena-worthy lead guitar and Springsteen-like desperate romanticism: "When you're around, I'm more the man I should be," Nichols implores a woman who's reluctant to accompany him - probably with good reason - on "On My Way Downtown."
There are hints of Lucero's earlier style in the more tightly structured songs, such as the lilting "Who You Waiting On?," which recall such British new wavers as Joe Jackson. More often, though, "Women & Work" is rowdy and retro. It swaggers toward the past with newfound enthusiasm.