A pleasant surprise for early Fall is the unexpected release of Lucky Tubb’s fourth LP entitled Del Gaucho, and folks, this is a good one.
Right after Lucky’s set at The Muddy Roots Festival, in a rush, he handed me this CD. I asked him when it was going to be released. He said “Now”, and jumped in his tour van to play the world famous Midnight Jamboree named after his Great Uncle in Nashville.Though I was surprised to see the album was ready to go, this wasn’t the first I had heard of Del Gaucho. When Lucky was touring Europe earlier in the year with his band The Modern Day Troubadours, I’d heard rumors of a recording session over there that had given rise to a slightly new direction for Lucky, one using drums, with a more rockabilly or Western feel, and that I was going to be blown away once I heard it. That Euro session and another one in Austin is what comprises Del Gaucho’s 13 delicious tracks.In some ways, I’m surprised that the music on Del Gaucho works so well. So many other artists and bands, to take this same selection of covers and originals and record them, it would just come across as cheese ball retro country with it’s anachronistic language and outmoded style. But Lucky Tubb has a swagger that makes him immune to such concerns. To him, this isn’t playing country like it used to be done, this is playing country like it is supposed to be done, and with that purity of purpose, and with heart and a good barometer for what is cool, he’s able to take classic sounds and themes and makes them as fresh and relevant as anything else being put out right now. He’s also aided by a solid band, with a ‘Robin’ to his ‘Batman’ in fiddler and singer Natalie Page, Casey (The Barber) Gill on bass, and the silly-sided William Owen-Gage, who has the tone and taste of Lucky’s neo-traditional style dialed right in.
Like most of Lucky’s albums, Del Gaucho includes a few songs from Tubb’s famous songwriting family, a song highlighting Natalie Page, and is finished out with Lucky’s originals. Though a few of the selections took a little warming up to, I wouldn’t second guess any track on this album, even the two sappy ones not written by Tubb blood, “White Silver Sands”, and “Lil Ole Wine Drinker, Me”. Lucky’s choices of Justin Tubb’s “Bachelor Man”, his uncle X Lincoln’s “Never Shoulda Fell In Love” and “Stood There” by Glen Douglas Tubb all feel like they could be written for this album exclusively. And like all of Lucky’s previous albums, his originals are the best songs of all.Lucky Tubb pens instant classics. The songs are so good, and carry such classic themes, you keep looking back at the liner notes, swearing someone must have done that song before. There’s a few songs here that will fit right into his top tier of his signature songs. There’s possibly more of these from this album than any other. The fun “Officer Garero”, the classically-sweet “Guess I’m a Fool”, the exquisitely-arranged “Heard Your Name”, “Rhythm Bomb”, and my personal favorite, the final track “That’s What I Get” are all ‘A’ list material. The instrumentation, performances, singing, style, songwriting on these songs, it’s all superb.
My only nit pick about this album, and it was something I noticed immediately when I first listened to it, is that the music sounds a little foggy, like it wasn’t mastered, or was mastered hastily. Or maybe it was made that way on purpose, but either way, I found it slightly frustrating to the ear, though the fervor for the music subsides this concern over time. I’m also not sure about Lucky’s tendency to use backup singer chorus lines in his songs. It reminds me a little too much of the Nashville Sound, and seems to stick out a bit in his style. Stylistically though, this is Lucky’s best album, if not his best grading it on all fronts. He creates that classic Western space in “Heard Your Name”, has an almost mod 50′s feel in “Never Shoulda Fell” and “Rhythm Bomb”. There’s a lot of boogie here, though staying solidly more country than rock n’ roll.
To say that songwriting is strong in the Tubb bloodline is an understatement, but beyond Ernest, performance and singing have mostly been second thoughts. Until it came to Lucky. He has the smooth, unique voice and sense of style, with a showbiz swagger that commands a room from center stage. He also has the demons that tend to haunt those humans with the aforementioned attributes, but as long as they’re tamed, at least to some extent, those demons help to draw an energy and authenticity to the music, making Lucky a wickedly-engaging performer. And above all the other kudos for Del Gaucho, translating Lucky’s engaging persona is the album’s marquee accomplishment.
Two guns up!