There are many artists mining the alt-country/traditional/Americana vein these days, prospecting that sweet spot where vintage country and gospel meet modern sensibilities. The thing with Indiana-born Austin Lucas is that his debut release actually gets it right.
This is a quiet record of acoustic guitar, a little fiddle, some tasty pedal steel work and the occasional rhythmic instrument that all serve the greater good: Lucas' songs and his beautifully mournful voice. If this is an affectation—Lucas, like many modern songwriters attempting trad country, comes from a punk rock background—then he owns it as if his mama played Hank Williams while he was in the womb. When he delivers songs of lost love and regret, the listener is compelled to want to buy Lucas a drink and pat him on the back. Even better, as in tracks like "Singing Man" and "Fountain of Youth," when Lucas is joined in harmony by Chloe Manor, the music becomes something sublime.
Funny how lonesome well expressed can be comforting sometimes, and "She Did" is a devastating cut of sadness that lifts the whole record. Lucas delivers a soundtrack nearly perfect for those long solo drives in the night.
Austin Lucas plays the Badlander Monday, Sept. 14, with Two Cow Garage and Mike Hale at 9 PM. $8.