Tom Waits doesn’t necessarily leap to mind when listening to Lucero’s raucous brand of Memphis-fueled Rock & Roll. But after reading frontman Ben Nichols’ ode to Waits last year in American Songwriter magazine, the connection begins to make sense — Nichols’ grizzled, expressive vocal delivery and penchant for piano and horns wouldn’t sound out of place amid Waits’ ’80s-era output.
“After playing in bands for a number of years that seemed to only get louder and faster, [Lucero bandmate] Brian [Venable] and I were both looking for something else, a type of music that we could grow old a little more gracefully with,” Nichols wrote. “I remember driving from Memphis to Little Rock listening to ‘Blind Love’ from the album Rain Dogs and saying to myself, ‘That right there is the type of song I’d like to write in this Lucero band.’ ”
Lucero’s most recent album, last year’s 32-song Live from Atlanta, is the band’s most obvious lean toward Waits yet. In fact, out of context, “Goodbye Again,” with its Jazz-lounge arrangement and croak-voiced laments about how its singer “can’t take the pain,” might even be mistaken for Nichols’ hero.
Yet the very next song, “Juniper,” jolts one back into Lucero’s Rock & Roll sweet spot, a foot-stomper about a hard-drinking woman that sounds like The Replacements doing Chuck Berry covers.
Lucero plays at the Taft Theatre Sunday, March 15. Find tickets/more info here.