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Jeffrey Luck Lucas

HELL THEN DIVINE  •  Jeffrey Luck Lucas

Authenticity is a slippery slope when criticizing music (or any art form). Enthusiasts who laud the pure, Mountain folk of a Doc Watson ignore the fact that he was discovered playing "Great Balls of Fire" on an electric Gibson and had to be encouraged to record the acoustic songs and fiddle tunes of his rural home. Otis Redding managed to make us feel the anguish when he sang "Pain In My Heart" without becoming a drug-addled junkie or miserable alcoholic. So what does it mean in terms of authenticity that Jeffery Luck Lucas lives in the somewhat urbane city of San Francisco rather than the rural dust of Texas, yet he sounds like a Valium-haloed Billy Joe Shaver? Nothing, I would posit--as long as he, or any artist, makes us believe it.

On his first solo record, the former Morlocks member mumbles his way through ten tales of love, lust, and loss, over a bed that melds traditional country instruments--electric and acoustic guitar, steel, drums, bass--with cellos (Lucas lists trained cellist on his resume), bowed cymbals and guitar, water glasses, Moog synthesizer, bamboo dulcimer, and something called a function generator. The resulting murk conspires to create a dream state where recurring images of water ("Slower Than The Water"), fire ("We Were On Fire"), and both ("Burnt Water") touch on something elemental in the sub-conscious, bypassing the forebrain, making the often unintelligibility of the lyrics unimportant to the overall effect. Words and lines peek out of the songs, sometimes misheard--but that is okay.

Lucas' ability to make all this work is doubtless down to his innate and inordinate talent, but is likely also a function of his classical training in orchestration and composition. The melding of David Phillips' evocative pedal steel and Chris Mulauser's perfect electric guitar parts with timeless sonic atmospheres bespeaks something more than a garage band ethic; still more amazing, he manages to do it without a hint of artistic preciousness. Hell Then Devine is a stunning debut that manages be both rooted and ethereal, guaranteed to make believers out of anyone who listens with an open mind. Authentic? You bet.  • Michael Ross

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cool interview with JLL at pidjin.com

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