Austin Lucas - A New Home in the Old World (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Austin Lucas

A New Home in the Old World (2011)

Last Chance

Austin Lucas is nothing if not a always on the move, both figuratively and literally. In his time he's played everything from technical metal to crust to folk and lived everywhere from Indiana to Prague, to Portland, Ore., and everywhere in between. Lucas seems most at home when he's anywhere that's slightly uncomfortable, be that playing in a crowded living room of a house, or pushing the boundaries of what is accepted as his musical norm. It should come as no surprise that his new album, A New Home in the Old World, finds Lucas doing just that: making himself right at home while continuing to push boundaries.

The most obvious place Lucas is seen growing is the immensely expanded musical backing on New Home. Lucas has long been growing from the sparse singer-with-an-acoustic template, but this shows him jumping headlong into full musical expansion and embracing it with both arms. Tracks just don't have a bass and drums added, but violins, banjo, horns, additional vocals and even electric guitars. It certainly may be a bit surprising to fans of Lucas' earlier, more stripped-down The Common Cold, but the backing really supports the album as a whole. Previous releases tended to be carried by Lucas' amazing voice, and while it worked well, it meant lulls in vocals meant a lull in the song. The additional instruments keep every song moving along briskly, regardless of the vocals. This is clearly heard in the nearly five-minute "Thunder Rail", which plays at such a rocking and bouncy pace it's over before you even know it.

The other area of growth is Lucas' lyrics and, more specifically, his embracing of song structure and hooks. This is something (like expanded instrumentation) that Lucas has dabbled with in the past, but he never seemed to fully commit (one might recall the amazing chorus of "Somebody Loves You" that was made just slightly frustrating by its refusal to keep the same lyrics for each go-around). Lucas makes a firm declaration on New Home by kicking it off with "Run Around", which has one of the strongest hooks he has ever written and features a belted-out, unapologetic scorn to some unnamed young female. If nothing else, the increased focus on powerful, catchy repetition makes this album easier to sing along with while drunk, which (let's be honest) is how a-many people are going to be singing along with this album.

It's impossible to say what Austin Lucas meant when he named his album A New Home in the Old World. Even if Lucas was to explain it, now that it's out in the world and open to interpretation, the meaning is up to the listener. Through focusing on the music, it's easy to see how it can be a reference to Lucas' relationship with music. He has always sought to carve out a unique niche in a style of music that is classic, even considered old-fashioned by some. Lucas takes that goal a step further with his new album, blending rock with folk like a fine, blended whiskey that goes down dangerously smooth...which is, oddly enough, exactly what you should be drinking while enjoying this album.