Published Sep 16, 2015Lucero's new album All A Man Should Do includes a song called "Went Looking For Warren Zevon's Los Angeles" that depicts lead songwriter Ben Nichols' travels around the City of Angels, tracking the locations referred to by Zevon's margarita-soaked song "Desperados Under The Eaves." Throughout All A Man Should Do, but especially on that song, Nichols discusses his own ruinous habits, which often mirror those of Warren Zevon. This is Lucero's first record since 2012's Women and Work, and ironically, All A Man Should Do deals primarily with the struggle between the life of a working and drinking musician and domestic harmony.
The first half of the record progresses from tales of love and touring on album opener "Baby Don't You Want Me" to battles with excess on "The Man I Was" and the fifth track "I Woke Up In New Orleans" (the halfway mark of the album, at which Nichols begins an earnest introspective shift). The second half of the album praises the woman in his life: "Little girl, you know you set my soul on fire every time you walk away," he sings on "Throwback No. 2," while songs like "They Called Her Killer" and "Young Outlaws" find Nichols discussing trading the rock and roll life for love.
While his the evolution from drunken longing to loving is clear here, it's hard to root for Nichols when his musical ruminations —at least for the first 20 minutes — paint his drinking as a tragic romance. "She asks me why can't I just stop drinking / Come on babe we both know it's too late, oh, for either of use to still be thinking that I could live my life some other way," he woefully intones on "I Woke Up In New Orleans." With the exception of a few tracks, the pouting piano and finger-picked melodies on All A Man Should Do do less for the narrator's cause than desired; the songs start to feel predictable and the reiteration of a palpable unwillingness to change becomes harder and harder to stomach.
Although Lucero paints a pretty bleak, Zevon-esque portrait, there are moments of celebration in All A Man Should Do. "Young Outlaws" is an electric tale of an outlaw hanging up his guns for his woman, and Lucero at their most exciting, as bluesy, honky-tonk piano, punchy horns and electric country guitar pepper the track.
Lucero are one of the hardest working bands in country music, so while we can commiserate with the struggles of a hard-traveled musician, All A Man Should Do is the band's first album in three years and could do with more of the tenacity that has made them crowd favourites, and less of the self-pity. (ATO/Maple)