Austin Lucas - Putting the Hammer Down (Cover Artwork)

Austin Lucas

Austin Lucas: Putting the Hammer DownPutting the Hammer Down (2008)
Magic Bullet Records

Reviewer Rating: 3

Contributed by: Matt_WhelihanMatt Whelihan
(others by this writer | submit your own)

By now, it's an all too familiar story. A punk or hardcore artist goes the solo route, picks up an acoustic guitar and mines the rich tomes of folk and country music to garner a new sound. Don't believe me? Try Chuck Ragan, Tim Barry, William Elliot Whitmore, Devon Williams, and Rocky Votolato for s.
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By now, it's an all too familiar story. A punk or hardcore artist goes the solo route, picks up an acoustic guitar and mines the rich tomes of folk and country music to garner a new sound. Don't believe me? Try Chuck Ragan, Tim Barry, William Elliot Whitmore, Devon Williams, and Rocky Votolato for starters. The thing is that despite often dramatic changes in tone, these artists typically still exhibit some trait that ties them to their punk roots. Whether it's a galloping strum, gruff vocal inflection or analogous lyrical themes, following the creative path back to these musicians' starting points isn't a job reserved for a master tracker.

It's this fact that makes Austin Lucas's North American (dude's a Czech citizen now after growing up in the U.S.) debut so interesting. Despite his musical pedigree, tracing Lucas's trajectory is no easy feat thanks to a sound that is much more traditional than his punk-gone-folk brethren.

While Austin Lucas may be best known as "that dude Chuck Ragan is going to record with," he's been making his mark on the grind/crust/metal scenes in bands like Rune, Twentythird Chapter and K10 Prospect for years now. Putting the Hammer Down marks a drastic departure from those previous projects as Lucas goes the way of country and bluegrass. By employing everything from a southern drawl and acoustic guitar to fiddle, banjo and ukulele Lucas has crafted an album that blends a backwoods storytelling ability with the careful reverence of folk-spirituals.

Songs like opener "Man Alive" and "There's Always Someone Tougher and Meaner" are rollicking ballads packed full of quick picking and a foot-stomping rhythm, while numbers like "How Are You My Lover" and "Breaker Breaker" are hushed and spacious odes to loneliness that feature minimal instrumentation and soothing backing vocals.

While Lucas has the instrumentation and aesthetics down, his songwriting seems to lack the direct punch that contemporaries like Chuck Ragan or Rocky Votolato have made a staple of their sound. While this could simply be attributed to the fact that Lucas is not willing to indulge in punk's simplicity or non-traditional elements, it keeps some of his songs from being nothing more than whispery elongated background pieces. Still, it will be interesting to see what sort of balance Lucas and Ragan strike now that both have presented their own musical identities.


People who liked this also liked:
Chuck Ragan - Gold CountryMinus The Bear - Highly Refined PiratesTegan And Sara - So JealousMae - The EverglowMinus the Bear - Planet of IceJets To Brazil - Orange Rhyming DictionaryAFI - DecemberundergroundCoheed and Cambria - In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3Strung Out - Suburban Teenage Wasteland BluesStrung Out - Twisted by Design

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
playyourpart (March 18, 2008)

The Common Cold was a really good record and I still spin it frequently. I haven't given this one much of a chance yet because after my first listen I was a little let down. Maybe I just gotta give it more time.

Booker_Pee (March 17, 2008)

Very good record, but i find myself occasionally agreeing with this review in the sense that i find myself yawning every once in a while.

but those instances are far from frequent. lucas is an incredible singer and a great songwriter. if you could combine the best tracks off this album and "the common cold" then you'd probably have one of the finest records of the last ten years.

BJR (March 15, 2008)

Man, I've been tooting this dudes horn forever. I can't wait for the Chuck Ragan CD to come out!

notfeelingcreative (March 15, 2008)

I loved "the common cold", but this doesn;t give me the same feeling, its alright, it just didn't really live up to my expectations.

Dante3000 (March 14, 2008)

Whoops, I didn't catch "North American debut". That's right. Sorry!

Also, for those interested the main themes of this album are heavy substance abuse and the subsequent recovery. There are a lot of tie in themes but those are the overlaying ones.

Dante3000 (March 14, 2008)

Just a note, this is Lucas second album, "The Common Cold" being the first. And while it is a departure from his previous bands, it's not too much of a surprise as this genre of folk/blue grass is what Austin's whole family played growing up.

I get a bit of the reviewers critique about long, whispery background music (nearly a minute for the lines "Tall Dark and Handsome, in June", is a bit much), there are also parts of this album that are superior to any punk gone acoustic act. I love lines like, "The cough that you had could have woken the dead, while the powder kept life in our bodies, our glass eyes coldly welcomed the sun, as we prayed for such sleep to never come" (if I remember correctly I don't have it on hand). There's definitely a little down factor in the pacing of some of the songs but lyrically I think Lucas is one of the best I've seen in this genre.

ifyoumakeit (March 14, 2008)

I saw him right before he went back home. A lot of people came out to watch him one last time before he left. He's a really talented dude.

I taped one song, although he came out kind of green.
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