Austin Lucas - Somebody Loves You (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Austin Lucas

Somebody Loves You (2009)

Suburban Home

Beer goggles. Sexy tractors. Honky tonk-badonkadonks. Magical tequila that makes one's clothes fall off.

I grew up on country music, and it wasn't always this way. The songs that became hits were, more often than not, substantially more heartfelt, relatable and even socially aware than the aural turds that dominate the airwaves these days. In the last few years, it seems that many artists have been searching for that one, identifiable hit -- something with a quirky title and light, humorous lyrics that they can bankroll for a year or so before retiring to the county fair circuit to tour until they're physically unable to perform, forcing hordes of intoxicated people to sit through an hour of other material before finally, mercifully playing the only song everyone and anyone wants to hear. Although it's a proven system, it's one in serious need of an overhaul if country music is to ever be taken seriously again.

While all of this will forever remain a pipe dream, it's nice to imagine a dude like Austin Lucas making that happen, because he's certainly got the voice and songwriting chops to do it. And on Somebody Loves You, he channels everything that used to be great about country music into a wonderful record that your parents or even your grandparents would enjoy right along with you, provided you can get them to turn off CMT for a bit.

Lucas' vocals are what's most impressive about Somebody Loves You; he displays a commanding range in songs like "Resting Place," "She Did" and especially "Go West," a song that's been floating around in demo form on a couple of compilations for quite a while. There's minimal instrumentation on a lot of these songs -- often it's just Lucas' voice and an acoustic guitar -- which can set up a vocalist to either succeed without a hitch or be painfully exposed as an underwhelming performer. Thankfully, Lucas falls into the former category.

Other instruments do make their presence felt on a lot of these songs, however; the steel guitar employed on the title track gives the song a warm yet ominous vibe, while on "Wash My Sins Away" it's used in a much more rowdy, but just as warm manner that's equally effective. And the fiddle -- that's violin for you Northern types -- abounds on "Singing Man" and "Life I've Got," adding lush, tasteful depth to each song. Lucas firmly believes in keeping it in the family, and his solo record is full of collaborations with members of the Lucas family. His father Bob is heavily involved as both a musician and producer -- Somebody Loves You was recorded is his living room-turned-studio, and his banjo playing is impressive on both "Go West" and "She Did" -- and Lucas' sister Chloe Manor provides solid backup vocals on a handful of the tracks.

I was introduced to Austin Lucas through his excellent 2008 collaboration with Chuck Ragan, Bristle Ridge, and all I could eloquently think of while listening to that record that day was "Who's the dude with the voice?" No sooner did I wonder aloud did Suburban Home Records snatch up Lucas to release Somebody Loves You. You won't find much of the faster, rowdier material that dominated Bristle Ridge here, but it's still abundantly clear that Lucas is more than capable of carrying a record on his own merit. This album is a natural fit for the niche Suburban Home has carved, and it's arguably the strongest of all the country-centric releases in their impressive catalogue.