When O Brother, Where Art Thou sold over seven million copies, you knew that people were listening and that the soundtrack would have an influence on future music. Where you probably didnt expect that influence to show was in the punk rock world. Seven years later, we have a label named after a Descendents song releasing Somebody Loves You by Austin Lucas.
Lucas plays finger-picking, twangy-voiced bluegrass-country. Most of the record is minimal with a few bass lines muddled in the background and occasional backing female vocals. Despite the studio musicians its largely a one man show. Lucas has some family ties in the music world, with his father and sister both appearing on the record - his father having songwriting credits on a Grammy-winning Allison Kraus record. While I cant say Im familiar with Kraus discography, this seems an apt starting place for Lucas. His themes are love, serenity, and a sense of place that are reminiscent of old school country but with a smoother voice and more ethereal demeanor, such as in Fountain of Youth. His voice is clearly well-suited to the style, and hes had a lifetime of training since being in the Indiana University Childrens Choir. After the first ten songs of lament and contemplation, things seem to pick up with the final two tracks. Go West is more of a straight-up country number with a full band and Farewell continues the upbeat tone at the end of the record.
The dog bark that starts things off quickly establishes a front porch atmosphere, with lyrics a bit on the melancholy side. Lucas uses very descriptive imagery to convey his messages of broken hearts and regrets, such as the barren highway and crow imagery in Singing Man. The theme behind Somebody Loves You follows a preacher losing faith, and the record is rift with religious terminology and references. With the title track and Precious Little Heart, the lyrics sometimes get a little too, well, precious for me.
The thematic approach is commendable, but the minimal approach behind much of the music just isnt what Im interested in. The music is heartfelt and sincere, but it doesnt really jump out from the rest of the pack. The more upbeat approach at the end holds more appeal for me and works well to shift the feel of the record after ten bleak tracks. Lucas has the chops both lyrically and with the guitar and I could see him gaining a strong following outside of the alt-country-punk world.
This is the kind of release that intends to be timeless. Those who enjoy it will enjoy it a lot, and its a serious piece of art. For whatever reason, the more professional a voice sounds, the less it appeals to me and I think thats what keeps this from really grabbing my attention, and its hard to fault Lucas for that.
6.8 / 10
In a time of ex-punkers going the acoustic, solo route, Austin Lucas offers something that differs from his Revival Tour circuit peers. Where artists like Chuck Ragan and Tim Barry ...
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