The Last Pale Light in the West is the solo EP (or apparently what is being called a "mini-album" by the record label) by Lucero frontman Ben Nichols. The album is based on the novel "Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy. For those of you who aren't familiar, that's the same man that wrote "No Country For Old Men." "Blood Meridian" is a bleak, violent book set in the mid 1800's, and Nichols does a fine job of capturing some of that bleakness and tension in the CD.
The arrangements are sparse, and consist mainly of Nichols and his guitar, with the exceptions being a pedal steel guitar and accordion. It's not a stretch to imagine these songs as a Lucero release. Nichols' whiskey and cigarette voice is so distinct, and his solo playing not wholly different than his work with Lucero, with the exception of this release being all acoustic.
The album opener is the title track, which serves as a great introduction to what we can expect over the course of the album. “The Kid” introduces us the main character of the book, known only as “the kid.” The song is one of the faster songs on the album, and does a good job of relating the background of the character, and also giving him a voice via Nichols’ songwriting. He’s a teenage runaway, and the pace of the song lends itself well to the youthful energy of a teenager. “Davy Brown” and “Tobin” are foot-stompers about those characters. “Chambers” is a beautiful ballad musically, on par with any other that Nichols has written. Lyrically though, it sticks with the story. “Toadvine” tells us the story of that character. The album closes with the instrumental “The Judge.” It’s an appropriate bookend to the album, as The Judge is the antagonist in the story. A western version of an even more evil Captain Nemo.
Overall, The Last Pale Light in the West is a great showcase for Ben Nichol’s lyricism, and what I’m assuming to be a breath of fresh air for him as a songwriter. A way to stretch his legs outside of the confines of Lucero. While I enjoy this mini-album immensely, I’m not sure it will find a wider audience outside of Lucero fans, or fans of the book. It is a welcome addition to the Ben Nichols body of work however, and a good hold over until the next Lucero album.
7.0 / 10
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