Song: "Nights Like These"
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Many argued that as the 2000’s began, musical quality and creativity had been all but lost due to modern recording technologies, as well as the clear effort by labels to seek out “marketable” artists as opposed to musicians with actual talent. Thankfully, it is in dark times such as these were the independent labels begin to thrive, as their commitment to a certain sound or standard rarely becomes compromised. Those who understood this reality began to scour such labels for a new act to bring hope to the existence of amazing, original music, and few bands delivered with more quality and consistency than Lucero. Bringing a completely fresh, distinctive, and outright engaging combination of country, folk, and even a bit of indie-rock, with a solid peppering of the punk spirit, there is no question that the group represented everything there was to love about music in a rather dismal age of musical releases, and Lucero proved that there was a bright future in high quality, moving music, though it was far from the mainstream sound. Barely a decade into their career, the band have released half a dozen records, all of which are of the finest quality, and this consistency has remained intact through a number of changes to the lineup. Due to their unique sound and exceptional level of unwavering quality, there is not an album in the bands’ catalog that is not worth owning, and yet one can argue that Lucero were at their best and most musically pure on their 2002 song, "Nights Like These."
All of the songs on Tennessee are attributed to the entire group in terms of writing, and in this statement, it is clear that the band realizes that a complete group effort yields the best results. On "Nights Like These," there is an amazing sense of energy that runs throughout the song, and such a feeling is rarely found on recordings with a similar underlying sentiment. It is the way that the guitar of Ben Nichols manages to convey such a wide range of feelings that makes the song so unique, as he perfectly blends together the slow, somber march of heartbreak along side the deep pain and frustration that is almost always in equal measure. The fact that both of these styles are able to shift back and forth so seamlessly is what makes "Nights Like These" such a unique musical experience, as one can truly feel the pain coming through within the music, which in modern times is often a lost art. Yet it is the work of the rest of the band that gives the song such a complete feel, as it is in many ways the small additions to the song were the finest moments occur. Whether it is a deeply soulful organ chord or the way that the cymbals flare out at certain moments, the chemistry between these players is far beyond that of any of their peers, as they completely give themselves to the mood of the song, yielding one of the most stunningly beautiful arrangements to emerge in years.
However, along with being able to lead this band through so many variations on a single style, there is no question that Ben Nichols also possesses a voice that is nothing short of perfect when blended with the overall sound that Lucero presents. Striking a completely captivating and absolutely ideal balance between country crooner and gritty rocker, Nichols' voice conveys the honesty and feeling of the "kid next door" sitting on the porch singing about his own troubles. It is the depth and sheer sense of unguarded emotion that comes through in every line he sings which serve as the final element in making this song nothing short of exceptional, and in many ways, this represents the finest mixture of these two genres that has ever been recorded. Though nearly every artist has taken on the idea of heartbreak at some point in their career, it is the sense of loneliness and loss that one can feel on "Nights Like These," that sets if far beyond other efforts. In many ways, Nichols is able to convey this emotion so accurately that it becomes almost unsettling, as he hides nothing from the listener and completely bares his soul. It is perhaps when he sings, "...it's nights like these, the sad songs don't help..." where one can truly feel the pain and frustration, and yet the song remains some how alluring and completely beautiful.
In an era of music that has become increasingly stagnant and predictable, bands like Lucero serve as proof that there is still the potential for amazing, original music to be created. Ignoring every trend that one can find, it is the way that the band blends together element from country, folk, blues, and a bit of punk attitude into a sound that has never before been heard that makes them such a wonderful band to experience. It is this combination and balance which enables Lucero to become accessible and enjoyable to music lovers across the spectrum, as there is an honestly and purity within their sound that cannot be denied. It is the way that the entire band moves as a single unit, completely filling out every nuance of this composition that draws the listener into "Nights Like These," and the balance between instrumentation cements the idea that when done properly, the final product will always massively outweigh the sum of its parts. Adding in the truly sensational and absolutely moving singing of Ben Nichols at its core, and Lucero's overall performance here becomes nothing short of an absolute joy to experience time and time again. The sincerity that one can feel in every word which Nichols sings is second to none, and this level of authenticity and honesty within the music serves as a reminder that try as they might, but there is never anything that can replace or top truly talented musicians performing at the top of their game. While every one of their records are solid both musically and lyrically, there is no question that Lucero’s 2002 album, Tennessee, stands as their finest work, and easily it is hard to find a more accurate display of the true power and presence of the band than their heartbreakingly amazing song, "Nights Like These."