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Lucero brings twang and soul to its country

for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

When guitarist Brian Venable and frontman Ben Nichols first met 14 years ago. Venable "wanted to start a country band." But the product of their union, Lucero, has become much more than that.

Called everything from alternative country to country-punk and Southern rock, Lucero has produced eight studio albums that have their share of twang but also incorporate other flavors -- including the soul music that's so indigenous to the band's native Memphis.

"When we started out we were punk rock kids but were listening to a lot of prettier stuff," Venable, 40, recalls. "We wanted to do that kind of stuff, too, but put a little twangy guitar on it. I didn't know anything about alternative country or anything like that. We came to it on our own, the discovered the whole Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt/Wilco world that was out there.

"It was just like, 'Oh, other people thought about this, too. Cool!' But I don't think we had any concrete idea; it was just like, 'Let's see what happens if we try this or that...' That's the way we've always done it."

On Lucero's latest album, "Women & Work," its led Venable, Nichols and company into an area he calls "country soul," following the "big Memphis soul record" that was 2009's "1372 Overton Park." The primary difference, according to the guitarist, was the way the group incorporated horn players Jim Spake and Scott Thompson.

"The last record we'd written on the road and then put the horns on top of it," Venable explains. "For this record we wrote with the horns, which was a little more cohesive. Now it's not, 'Should we leave this blank for the horns?' A lot of times when we're writing they're there, playing long and coming up with their (parts).

"So now they're just part of the mix in the writing. You'll hear something they do and go, 'Ooh, that's nice, let's lay back there and let them fill it in' instead of me or somebody else. It's just another way of doing it, and I think it worked real well this time."

Lucero and William Elliott Whitmore perform Friday, April 13, at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16 in advance, $18 day of show. Call 313-833-9700 or visit www.majesticderoit.com.

Web Site: www,majesticdetroit.com

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