Monday, 13 April 2009
Lucky Tubb and The Modern Day Troubadours - Damn The Luck
Lucky Tubb is the great nephew of the legendary honky tonk singer, Ernest Tubb. Ernest was one of the biggest stars in country music history who amassed no fewer than 82 hits between 1944 and 1979. Poor ol’ Lucky is going to enjoy about 82 hits fewer than that, not because he’s bad, in fact he’s good, very good, but he suffers from the modern day syndrome of being too country. Let’s be honest, his Uncle Ernie would be laughed out of Nashville nowadays with his chiselled looks and un-CMT vocals delivery.
The fact that Lucky won’t be the darling of the Nashville scene, will no doubt suit him fine. He comes from the Wayne Hancock, Hank III school of hillbilly, happy to tour the bye-roads of small town America in the tradition of the likes of Tubb and Bill Monroe. The other thing to consider is that he isn’t just making a living as an uncle Ernest tribute singer, Lucky Tubb is very much his own man. He’s lived a troublesome life and has his own story to tell. He’s toured as opening act for Dwight Yoakam, Ray Price and Hank III but on this listening, I think he’s gonna be the headliner pretty soon.
Damn the Luck is Tubb’s second album, following Generations, six long years ago. This latest release was recorded live in the studio in just one day! The Modern Day Troubadours are Tubb on vocals and rhythm guitar, Natalie Page Monson on fiddle and harmony vocals, Jericho Renshaw on lead guitar, Casey Gill on slap bass and Steve England on pedal steel, dobro and mandolin.
The album evokes the sounds and smells of lost highway juke joints, ala Wayne Hancock but without that bloody trumpet, that seems to get more and more airplay. What I love about this album is that you can’t see the seams between the songs written 50 years ago and the ones written today. Lucky himself wrote six of the eleven songs, and there’s a quartet of vintage family numbers. Not Ernest, but his Uncle Douglas who wrote three of them between 1952 and 1956, and another relative, Ronnie Wade wrote one in 1957.
As soon as the album kicks off with Used Up Love I just knew I was going to love it. Huntsville sees him in prison (he actually spent 5 years behind bars, including time in Huntsville) where “some Mexican wants to make me his wife – but I don’t think so”. You’ll enjoy the lyrics and you’ll drool over Renshaw’s gittar. Bakersfield pays tribute to the sound that put the city on the map with Renshaw and England taking top honours again.
I could hear a bit of Chet Atkins in Renshaw’s picking on The World Is A Monster which along with Sweet Mental Revenge sees country music’s infamous dark side come to the fore. It ain’t all neon signs and parties with hillbilly gals in denim shorts and cowboy boots.
I love the chugging rhythm of Keeping Time, with it’s Drifting Cowboys lonesome sound and some great honky tonk vocals from Tubb. It’s Your Wagon is fine up-tempo hillbilly with The Modern Day Troubadours showing what a fine country band they are – Casey Gill’s bass driving the whole thing along.
Honky Tonkin’ isn’t the Hank Williams classic, but is an enjoyable slab of hillbilly with Gill again sounding right on the money - “Got my baby by my side, and Bob Wills on the box”. There’s more hot picking on Annie Don’t Work No More with Renshaw’s rocking guitar and the backing vocals giving it a real rockabilly feel. The way he signs “rrrrrrock” is superb. The CD closes with the title track, a honky tonker which along withy Annie, is the highlight of a fabulous album.
The only youTube clip I could find is the one below, and although it only runs for about a minute it gives a glimpse of what they sound like live.