with Rocky Votolato and Drag the River Trio
Cat's Cradle, Carrboro
Thursday, Nov. 16, 9 p.m.
"You used to love me/ A drunkard running wild in the streets/ C'mon baby, what else would you have me be?"
Lucero frontman Ben Nichols has never shied from a good tune about booze or women. In fact, those topics constitute the bulk of the band's repertoire, but the calloused crooner has more to offer than whiskey hymns and broken-heart ballads: He's earnest, honest and, most importantly, consistent. Like a sturdier, Southern-reared Westerberg, Nichols has shaped Lucero into the quintessential American rock 'n' roll band, less interested with excessive experimentation than the strength of his songs. While Lucero's alt-country peers in Drive-By Truckers and partners in crime Against Me! constantly strive to reinvent themselves, Lucero slowly perfects its individual science. You know, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
That tradition is built on its own history: Lucero formed in 1998 in the wake of Nichols' previous Schwarzenbachian escapade, Red 40. Allowing his predisposition for the Man in Black to take over, the Tennessee-via-Arkansas punker began scavenging Memphis bars and bands for likeminded musicians. He found them, resulting in 2000's recently reissued Attack Tapes LP and the My Best Girl 7" (complete with Jawbreaker cover). Both helped push the group to the foreground of the underground rock scene. They've been there ever since.
Unable to break beyond the perennial next-big-thing tag they've held for the past half-decade, Lucero continues to do the things that seemingly work best for them: eat, sleep, drink, tour, drink, record and drink. A steady diet of the Southern-rock life grants Nichols the comfort in his songs, regardless of accompaniment; sometimes it's a mandolin, sometimes it's an organ, but it's always Nichols.