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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lucero Embrace Memphis

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When guitarist Brian Venable of the Memphis band Lucero visits Milwaukee or Wisconsin to play a show or see friends, he’s always fascinated by the many historic and unique buildings dotting almost every corner, including bars he says look basically like houses. In a sense, his band’s raw rock and blues sensibilities would fit in well in a small bar-like setting. On the other hand, they also have a Memphis country and soul side that may be more fitting of a larger theater or music hall. On last year’s Women & Work, Lucero showed that they can live vicariously through both personas, proving that after 15 years of playing together, they’re unafraid of trying new things.

“In the beginning, you have an idea of what you want but maybe not the ability or something,” says Venable. “But as you start playing together as a band you start putting in all the influences, whether they’re new or older influences. I think that’s the beauty of having played together for 15 years—that you get to go deeper than a band that’s been together four or five or something.”

Growing up, however, they weren’t always fully aware of their hometown’s traditions. Sometimes they were interested in getting out of town and traveling and exploring what else was out there. Over time they slowly grew interested in soul, blues and R&B, and as they gained more experience, they realized that Memphis traditions were a bigger part of their music than they first thought and fully embraced honoring where they came from.

“When you grow up in the center of something, sometimes you don’t always see it right away,” says Venable. “You want to stand with the rest of the history of Memphis.”

Over the years, the band has added more members and became more comfortable with a wider palate of influences.

“We discovered it was all around us and had players that knew what they’re doing that play with us now,” Venable says. “So we not only have the desire, but the ability to do whatever we want to musically and go explore.”

With a more layered sound, thanks to each new member, they are able to keep things fresh. They have expanded to include instruments like organ, accordion, pedal steel guitar and horns. “Go Easy” has a gospel influence with a full gospel chorus.

“When you’re together so long, it can get stale,” Venable says. “So you bring new people in to bring something to the table. It keeps you excited and adds new elements to your art and helps with the sound.”

Lucero now call the road their home for much of the year. Over the years they’ve formed a brotherly bond with each other, as they’ve shared ups and downs. One of the high points was getting the album released on ATO Records, home to Dave Mathews and My Morning Jacket.

“They do stuff with My Morning Jacket and Dave Matthews kind of stuff so they understand bands that tour for a living,” says Venable. “For some of the labels we’ve been on they’ve been looking for a radio hit or record sales.”

The band is currently prepping an acoustic four-song EP that they plan to release later this year. For this tour they’re playing these songs as an acoustic set in the middle of their other sets. They’re touring with longtime friend Langhorne Slim, who they first played with almost a decade ago.

“When we go out to play music it’s always nice,” Venable says. “It’s like an old friend.”

Lucero plays the Turner Hall Ballroom on Thursday, April 25, with opener Langhorne Slim. Doors open at 7 p.m.