When is a guitar like a woman? When it’s in a country song. “She’s all mine for all night,” sings Lucero’s Ben Nichols. “The only girl a boy can trust is his guitar/ She’s my best girl/ She’s got six strings/ And she knows all about these heartbreakin’ things.” Harsh? According to Nichols, falling in love is like catching a shotgun blast to the chest. “Well I’ve been dodging the girls/ Like bullets from a gun/ It was only a matter of time/ Till I got myself shot by one.”
Give me a break. But can a former punk band from Memphis go alt-country? Yes, considering that Lucero makes almost no reference to Nashville, Bakersfield, or even Texas. Although they sometimes claim to find inspiration in Cormac McCarthy Westerns, in recent years Lucero has been known to include a horn section. They could pass for a soul outfit, the blame for which may fall on Jim Dickinson. He’s a Memphis legend who worked with them on 2005’s Nobody’s Darlings. Otherwise, Lucero’s country-music core is right on the money with bass, guitars, keyboards, and the grandfather instrument of all shitkicker music, pedal steel.
Founded in the late 1990s by Ben Nichols, Lucero tours hard and makes records that put the emphasis right where it belongs, on Nichol’s whiskey-trashed voice. Rolling Stone liked them early on and included them on their Hot List in 2003. But don’t go to Lucero for much in the way of Southern comfort. They live in a skeptical universe where the tears come easy. “There’s some girls in the corner booth/ Well I pretended not to see/ Them talking about me/ You know it ain’t the truth.”
Blackout Party and the Lowvolts also perform.
LUCERO: The Casbah, Sunday, February 20, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. Sold out.