Following recent successes such as 2009’s Somebody Loves You and 2008’s Bristle Ridge split release with Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music, American bluegrass/punk crossover Austin Lucas returns with his latest effort, A New Home in the Old World – the album title stemming from Lucas’ years spent living abroad in Prague honing his craft by playing guitar in Czech punk band Guided Cradle.
This is Lucas’ first solo album to utilise a full backing band and this is the first thing to strike those familiar with his past output of mainly vocal/guitar/fiddle-only tracks. Calling in his friends in Lucero as well as numerous family members, this album succeeds in retaining the listener’s interest throughout, where some past albums have fallen slightly short due to lack of variety.
Opening with the cracking “Run Around”, the album starts off in fifth gear and rarely falls below that mark. The inclusion of full drums and clawhammered banjo insures an attention-grabbing opener perfectly suited to Lucas’ piss and vinegar fuelled take on gospel vocals.
With all the added instrumentation on this album, it would be easy to presume that Lucas’ unique yet technically proficient acoustic guitar playing would get lost in the mix – not so. Tracks such as “Darkness Out of Me” and “Nevada County Lines” are evidence enough that he has lost none of his gifts in this regard.
“Feast” is a rollicking gospel number, opening with an acoustic guitar lick that sadly doesn’t feature much further into the track, though it’s rousing chorus of ‘hallelujah, amen’ is so perfectly phrased even the most self-professing of athiests amongst his audience will find themselves singing along. Penultimate track “Keys” is another hit-in-waiting, though its arrangement seems eerily familiar to Lucas’ biggest single “Go West” from Somebody Loves You; which is ultimately quite distracting for seasoned followers of his craft. For those not previously familiar with his work though, this track can be appreciated for all that it is, taking a decidedly darker tone to the last single. “The Grain” brings fond memories of the late 80s alternative of the Replacements.
Austin Lucas has always been regarded by those in the alt-country know as an amazing talent, and this record may perhaps see him achieve the recognition he surely deserves. Highly recommended for any fan of Uncle Tupelo, Lucero or Tim Barry, this album will be one of 2011’s real gems.
© Steve Pass, Music Vice