Review Summary: Break out the whiskey boys; these are drinking songs.
The state of Tennessee is famous for being the home of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, the top-selling whiskey brand in the world. In addition to this resplendent accolade, Tennessee is also known for its prestigious musical history including the country music capital of the world, Nashville, and Beale Street in Memphis. Well, Lucero decided to combine these two elements of Tennessee heritage and christen the resulting album with the state’s name, which was a brilliant idea considering Tennesseans could always use some further encouragement to continue their country music-toting, whiskey-drinking ways. Lucero knows what they’re talking about with this whiskey business, too. Old No. 7, Tennessee Honey, you name it, and Lucero was probably drinking it during the writing and recording of this album. Now, this is all speculation of course, but one listen to <i>Tennessee</i> makes one thing clear: these are drinking songs.
Lucero is a six-piece country-tinged rock outfit from Memphis, Tennessee. Their career has been an illustrious albeit subdued one, spanning fourteen years, nine studio albums, and countless national and international tours without garnering much attention from the “industry.” <i>Tennessee</i>, the band’s third release, explores themes of love, nostalgia, and fate through topics such as girls, diners, and, of course, drinking. All the stories told by frontman Ben Nichols’s unmistakable southern drawl share a common theme though, and that is of loneliness.
Not the romanticized, cowboy-bravado kind of loneliness sung about by many classic country musicians, but the sad, drink-yourself-to-sleep kind of loneliness that pervades anyone’s life who has ever experienced the tales described in <i>Tennessee</i>. Tales of the your loved one’s heart being “with someone else” or longing for someone you care about to “remember [you] sometimes” when you’re gone. The themes and feelings are as universal as the topics of drinking whiskey and being rejected a square dance by the prettiest girl in town are centralized to the dimly lit, late night dance floor bar culture that the members of Lucero inhabit. Everyone can relate when on album highlight “I’ll Just Fall” Nichols, in regards to a drunken stupor, sings, “I’ll just stay right down here on this floor … I must’ve had a pretty good time to end up here.” And yet, the brutal irony in that statement is heartbreaking for anyone who has woken up the morning after and felt more alone than the night before.
A constant drone of lazy guitars and effectively simplistic drum rhythms provide an accurate representation of what these songs are meant to be the soundtrack for. Because if Nichols isn’t drunk while he’s singing his words, the guitarist sure as hell is, or maybe the drummer, or bassist, who knows. But it’s hard to imagine the majority of the tunes on <i>Tennessee</i> being played by a cheerful group of sober musicians who are thrilled to be alive and performing music. And in their drunken glory, the listener is inclined to grab of bottle of his or her own and join in on their celebration of the darker, more forgettable times in our lives that we all hate to experience, yet unfortunately cannot avoid.
So the next time you are dumped by your girlfriend, laid off work, or your precious Tennessee Titans fail yet again to make a playoff appearance, bring home a bottle of Jack, pop in Lucero’s <i>Tennessee</i>, and make a night of it.