I first heard Austin Lucas on a song on a promo compilation compiled by Suburban Home Records (specifically Suburban Home Records Mix Tape Volume 5.) The compilation was a great mix of current and classic performers but the song that kept me coming back was a demo version of Sleep Well, a languorous slice of sparse, somber beauty that haunted me and drew me in again and again.
Lucas is journeyman of sorts. In his career this Indiana native has navigated metal, punk, folk and country. His dexterity and fidelity to the craft led him to collaborations with fellow punk vets Chuck Ragan (Hometown Caravan) and Frank Turner (Under The Influence: Volume 7) and led to Lucas landing a spot on Regan’s post-punk foray into roots-folk collective known as The Revival Tour.
On first impression Lucas proves the idiom “You Can’t judge a book ..’ Much like Aaron Neville,
with whom Lucas not only shares a startling looks-to-voice disparity but also an expressive vibrato.
Lucas’ voice also carries the high lonesome of Bill Monroe in the opener Run Around, a jaunty front-porch break-down and Sit Down, a lost love number accented with Todd Beene’s weeping pedal steel and barroom piano. These are songs I’d recommend to anyone bemoaning about country music’s glory days gone by.
Thunder Rail and The Grain with their ringing guitar hooks, earnestly cryptic lyrics are post-punk gems that show Lucas has been an astute student of 80’s era R.E.M. His voice even takes on Stipe-like qualities on the latter.
There is a more filled-out version of the aforementioned Sleep Well featuring Lucas’ sister Chloe on backing vocals. This version holds just as much poignancy as that demo introduction, though I do miss that harmonica.
Keys is a lyrical and poetic testament against the insidious seduction of war “ I was told once only battle can save me from my own worthlessness.” If truth is the first casualty of war it falls on the Lucas to offer truth sanctuary within his allegory.
Throughout this fine release is a crackerjack band comprised of Lucas’ father Robert – who handed down his music legacy to his boy, Lucas’ sister Chloe and wife Cate on vocals ,cChris Westhoff, Jason Groth & Mike Kapinus from Magnolia Electric Company, Todd Beene from Lucero, Christian Rutledge from Bowery Boy Blue .