To be completely honest, I know more about Austin Lucas than I do about his current residence in The Czech Republic, which doesn't attest too much besides my ignorance of The Czech Republic. I know Lucas was born in the United States and moved, has played in crust and grind bands, and has worked with Chuck Ragan. Not necessarily the likeliest resume, but things look promising. When label head Brent Eyestone isn't (understandably) promoting the hell out of This Will Destroy You, Magic Bullet Records seems to be giving most of their attention to Lucas. And given their current lineup of bands, it shows the confidence they have in him.
I've always been in appreciation of crossover musicians that can made the tradeoff so well, and splitting time between grind and bluegrass folk music is a feat many musicians dare not attempt, although it would be interesting to hear Magrundergrind or Insect Warfare covering a Bright Eyes song. But before I get too off topic, Lucas was born in Indiana and it's plain to see him paying homage to the Midwest with Putting the Hammer Down. Traditional bluegrass instruments are used, such as the banjo and fiddle, as well as bass and guitars. The music is patient and takes patience, but it can be worthwhile.
The first song on the album, "Man Alive," is my favorite song to come out in 2008. The banjo and fiddle intertwine with the banjo being finger picked to set the pace and the fiddle lifting the song upwards. Lucas' voice has a powerful tremble to it, as he sings, possibly autobiographically, about a sickly man struggling to survive. The song's chorus brings to life the ailment with Lucas crooning, "My breath is a hammer / My insides are taxed like an anvil / My heartbeat's a tremor / And I have not love but for nicotine." The song has a swift pace to it, although the pace quickly dies down.
Chloe Manor makes an appearance on five songs, with "How Are You My Lover" being the first. Putting the Hammer Down is as much of a collective effort as it is Lucas' work, as apparent in the sweet tenderness her voice brings to all of the songs she collaborates in. Most of these songs are drawn out and move slowly, but they are always a constant.
Lucas is without a doubt a musical craftsman, with lyrical content and a voice to envy. However, these are not songs to listen to absentmindedly, driving through a city, or getting dressed for work. It takes the right state of mind to fully appreciate Putting the Hammer Down, with this writer's suggestion to do so at dusk on the porch with your favorite alcoholic beverage. I don't know much about The Czech Republic, but it can apparently be the breeding ground for crust folk crossovers, which says enough in it's own right.