Album Review: Lucero – “Women & Work”

I want to start this review by saying that “Women & Work” is a very good album (I gave it 4 stars)… but it’s not the album that I was hoping for. It feels like something, actually a couple of things, are missing.

The sadness in Ben Nichols vocals, prominent in songs such as “Nights Like These”, “Goodbye Again”, “Nobody’s Darlings” and many others is almost nonexistent on this disc. The song “I Can’t Stand To Leave You” is as close as you get but even though it’s a great song, possibly my favorite on this disc, it doesn’t quite convey the same feeling. Sure, he sounds a bit sad, but he no longer sounds desperate.

And while I’m on the subject of Ben’s singing, it seems to have lost a little bit of the gruffness that I’ve always enjoyed. Yes, it still sounds like Ben Nichols, just a little more cleaned up.

The third (and last) thing that “Women & Work” is missing is a couple of hard rockin songs. “Juniper” and “Like Lightning” are both upbeat but that’s not exactly what I’m talking about. Those two songs make me want to nod my head along with them, but this album is missing a couple songs that make you want to stomp a hole in the floor or jump out of your seat and kick a hole in something. “Sounds Of The City” and “The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo” off their last album (“1372 Overton Park”) are great examples of what I mean.

Ok, now that I’m finished telling you what this disc lacks, let me take some time and tell you about the positives, they do outweigh the negatives. There’s really not a bad song on this disc, it’s well played, well written and well sung, what more could you ask for in an album?

The problems that I had with “Women & Work” came more from my expectations than from the disc I was given to review. When I got past what I wanted to hear and listened to what “Women & Work” had to offer I found myself really enjoying the album. The previously mentioned track “I Can’t Stand To Leave You” is quickly becoming one my favorites from the band. Other standouts include “Sometimes”, a song that moves like a river slowly slicing it way through a mountain. “When I Was Young”, a track that has an Eagles/Bob Seger sound to it and “On My Way Downtown”, a pretty upbeat song about wanting a women to meet you downtown, with a great horn section. Lucero  returned home to Memphis, Tennessee and set out to make a disc that showcased their love for the Memphis country soul sound and they succeeded. When all is said and done and I’ve listened to the cd five times straight through, I can honestly say that I’m a fan of “Women & Work” but I still do wish that it was a slight bit less restrained.

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