Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ben Nichols-'The Last Pale Light in the West'

Ben Nichols, frontman of the Memphis based folk-punk group, Lucero is out with his first solo effort, The Last Pale Light in the West. The band has built up a well known reputation over the past 10 years for pouring their blood, sweat and tears into their live shows and LP's, taking on an everyman appeal akin to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, The Hold Steady, or the Replacements for example. At the very heart of that everyman approach is Nichols, with his gritty, whiskey soaked vocals and a knack for Americana storytelling. On his solo affair, which is a 7 song mini-album of sorts, Nichols based his writing for the disc on author Cormac McCarthy’s book, Blood Meridian. While the musical style is a slight shift from his previous work in Lucero, Nichols ability to take you inside a character's head and emotions plays directly into his strengths here, taking on the role of a screen-writer almost. It's that character development that makes the disc work, even if your unfamiliar with McCarthy's book, as Nichols paints the picture for you. Musically speaking the disc is stark, and mostly an acoustic affair, with hints of pedal steel, piano and accordion. With that being said, it still shouldn't scare off die-hard Lucero fans, who are used to tracks like "The War" or "Hold Me Close" being scattered on the bands LP's.
The album is solid from top to bottom, but highlights of the disc include, the title track, "The Last Pale Light in the West", "Davy Brown" and "Tobin" to name a few.
In an era that seems to put little emphasis on great songwriting, it's a breath of fresh air to sit back and take in Nichols versatility and gift as a writer and storyteller.
In Lucero news, it was announced not long ago that the group is making the jump to the majors, having recently signed a four-album deal with Universal/Republic, no news as of yet as to when their next LP will be out.

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