Jeffrey Luck Lucas
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Jeffrey Luck Lucas

Band Alternative Singer/Songwriter


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"Jeffrey Luck Lucas "Hell Then Divine""


by Darren Overs Pearson
11 February 2005

All moods are covered here from ennui to utter misery. Lovely. At the age of 15, after five years of cello studies, a tall skinny guy casually approaches Jeffrey Luck Lucas. Does he play bass? Trading in one four-stringed instrument for another he hits the punk scene, ends up forming Morlock and then burns out. What next? Back to school to reclaim that cello, then, realising his mistake, he decides to work on those songs that have haunted him for years.

Rather than the usual collection of songs, Hell Then Divine is like listening to a drunken man mumbling through his life story. Sometimes banal, occasionally bizarre, the story is somehow gripping as you strain to listen.

In the background a bunch of good ol' boys strum and twang in a narcotic haze. Lucas' voice could be Tom Waits after clearing his throat; it'sa rasping drawl describing misery and acceptance.

Everything is haunting, from Desmond Shea's baleful trumpet to Chris Mulhauser's baritone guitar, and low frequencies are well catered for. The music swells with Lucas using his cello bow on guitar and cymbals, while both pedal and lap steel ply their lachrymose trade.

There are few direct references to the '40s and '50s country and Mexican folk Lucas cites as influences. Instead, he uses the instrumentation and atmosphere of those genres while taking a more contemporary attitude. The production allows the music to breath and the voice to wander. From "Sway To The Roll" - which conjures up The Walker Bros' "No Regrets" - through the sweet hangover blues of "Shine" to "Midnight Texas", with its hints of Willie Mitchell, the music swaggers defiantly.

Lucas recounts his woeful stories slowly and deliberately,blurring the line between nightmares and dreams. Past the roadside bars and whorehouses, down a featureless two-lane highway to oblivion: he isn't afraid; he feels nothing. This record must be taken on its own terms; it's unyielding, even bloody minded at times.

"All This and Hell Too"

All this and hell too
Country, cinema, Ian Curtis, and the hazy funk of a whiskey-soaked bender – Jeffrey Luck Lucas shouts at the devil.
By Kurt Wolff

IS IT ALWAYS nighttime in the songs of Jeffrey Luck Lucas? Not really, but it almost feels that way, what with the dark moodiness of his arrangements and the introspection and angst that permeate so many of his lyrics. And not just any night, either, but the kind that's always thick with a funky bourbon haze, where sleeplessness incarcerates your vision and all intentions of decency are transformed into blurry, oil-slicked puddles you carelessly drive over or step straight into. Things happen on nights like this – fortunes are squandered, souls misplaced. You wake up on the other side, and all you can think to do is pray.

"Hell, you ain't nothing to me," Lucas sings on "Old Mexico," in a voice that sounds scratchy and worn, like a man emerging from a lengthy bender, battered but unbowed and still willing to call the devil names. Behind him is an acoustic guitar, a simple arrangement clearly grounded in country music, yet there's another element too – like the distant shuffle of coyotes moving in the dark, or remnants of a hallucination not quite quelled by the coming dawn. Maybe it's the black-and-white images on the cover of Lucas's 2004 CD Hell Then Divine (Antebellum) that give it away, or the murky tone of his voice, but there's something unavoidably cinematic and noirish about it all.

That haunted mood and sound is the essence of Hell Then Divine, a knockout debut that's deep, slow-moving, and powerful. It's grounded in country, yes, a music for which Lucas has a longstanding love (he remembers "drives to the steakhouse in Indiana [he was born in Gary] when I was little with my grandpa, listening to Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb," he told me via e-mail). Still, that's only part of the story. Inside this music is also, as Lucas puts it, "a bit of everything I've experienced, from Lou Reed to Red Foley to Badalamenti to Cormac McCarthy to Joy Division."

Not to mention the landscape of the West, a region in which he spent some years growing up (from Gary, the family went to Maryland and then Texas) and in which as an adult he has done a good bit of traveling around. "I love the desert," Lucas says, "the climate, the people. There's something you can trust in someone who chooses to live on the edge of nowhere. You look in each other's eyes and know. Not a lot of questions – it's quiet, empty. And the stars are magnificent at night."

Some of his music feels deeply urban, like "Cascade," the shuddering, shimmering wonder of a song that opens the album. In other cases, though, you can practically hear the wind scraping across the desert sand, or moaning through the high-tension wires. That spooky quality comes thanks not just to the liberal use of pedal steel that permeates the melodies, or the whiskey-soaked twang that drives so many of the narratives. Like I said before, it's not all about the country.

For one thing, Lucas spent time as a member of San Diego garage rock band the Morlocks, who split up in 1986. That wild energy is buried in the song, despite the unhurried tempos and reflective moods. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, the music shows hints of the avant-garde. Lucas, it turns out, is a classically trained cellist: he played the instrument from age 10 all the way through graduate school and also studied composition. The arrangements on Hell Then Divine feel not necessarily complex, but innovative, and when it does pop up, his cello work blends beautifully with the album's overall moods and sounds.

"Being able to think in terms other than traditional pop forms is a great benefit," Lucas explains. All that musical schooling gave him an ear for, as he puts it, "sound color," not to mention "a love of layers and texture" and a desire to create "minimalist gestures" that are able to "convey maximum emotive content."

And then there's the darker side. I ask Lucas his main inspirations for the album, and he responds, "Loners, losers, heartbreak, battles with alcohol, divorce."

Good lord, pulling from your own life is excellent practice, but those aren't the sorts of experiences you'd wish on anyone. "It all happens so fast," he muses, "like looking out a car window." Nonetheless, now that Lucas has made it out the other side and is still standing, it sure has contributed to creating some seriously intense and compelling songs. As he explains it, "I wanted Hell Then Divine to be able to convey a complex state of the spirit in a lucid, 'simple' way ... much like Hank Williams is able to do, but with my own language and personal ontology."

Don't be afraid of it, though. No doubt, Lucas's music certainly isn't light. Housewives won't be humming his songs in the aisles of the A&P anytime soon. At the same time that his tunes rattle your core, they're bristling with texture, but they're also immediately touching ... not to mention thoughtfully and carefully assembled. This is music that's fully grounded. - San Francisco Bay Guardian

"What We Whisper"

Darkly gorgeous, unexpectedly uplifting, these nine slow-moving songs traverse desolate nighttime landscapes where conversations in road-houses and at neon-lit kitchen tables drift suddenly from trivialities to life-altering truth. The coffee turns cold, the cigarettes burn down, and all of the sudden someone you love is looking you in the eye, demanding, "Tell me why / your kindest words are just shy of lies." Jeffrey Luck Lucas, a SF-based songwriter who got his start with garage-Kinks The Morlocks before earning a masters in cello composition and performance, is not one to shy away from the confrontational in this, his second solo album. Still, his voice is so gentle and mournful, his arrangements so supple and glowing that you don't see the knife right away...or perhaps, if you're unlucky, at all.

These songs are subtly constructed, autumnal elements like harmonica and accordion surging and receding behind Lucas' weary harmonies. "Just Like Moths," one of the album's most beautiful cuts, spends most of its duration as a sigh turned into verse, as exhausted and unhoping as a song can be. But then, without warning, the song builds into something like triumph, as pedal steel joins with a nearly joyful chorus. "In the Stars' Whirling" is stranger, more enveloping in its gradual billow of string tones, the ice-clear tinkling of keyboards, as Lucas sings of watching a loved one sleep and wondering how another man kisses her.

Lucas' voice – in the same soulfully rough family as Will Oldham or Micah Hinson – is a large part of this album's appeal. Still, its lone instrumental offering, "Griftos Muertos," has its own menacing charm, with vibrating, high saw tones dancing a tango with accordion and junkyard drums. Moreover, backing musicians David Phillips (on pedal steel) and Wendy Allen of Court and Spark (harmonies) lend velvety textures to Lucas' otherwise sparse songs.

What We Whisper is a world of darkness, poignant regrets and unlooked-for late night solace. Its songs feel simple the way the language in the King James Bible seems simple, as if they had always been there and could not be any other way.

By Jennifer Kelly - Dusted Magazine

"Live Review 1"

"... But it was the night's very first act, Jeffrey Luck Lucas, who flooded the stage with such powerful feeling that listening to anything in its wake felt almost like treading water. Wedding swells of languid, meditative surf rock to mournful Western ballads, Lucas's music evokes a feeling of aching reverberation over an endless distance, full of nostalgic mirages and shimmering with loneliness. Rather than focusing on a tightly defined handful of notes, his sound builds on a series of ghostly, overspreading echoes, released by the silvery warble of baritone guitar, the warm resonance of acoustic bass, and a leisurely yet ominous thunder of percussion. While these float and fade in the air, coloring it with their vibrations, Lucas unfolds tales of desolate borderlands and lost love in a baritone that's rugged, but weary. Despite the undeniable darkness of his songs, their melancholy is never absolute. More wistful than bitter, they carry the same survivor's hopefulness as the title of Lucas's recent Antebellum release, Hell Then Divine, which suggests the kind of will to live that endures, even in the chilly aftermath of immolation, by drawing heat from the last embers. They are lullabies for the lonely, and refrains filled with regret; they might be the soundtrack for one last, slow dance with that person you can't live with, and can't live without. But their eerie grace is a comfort of its own, serving as a reminder that the darkest hour is always followed by the dawn." --Rebecca Johnson - West Coast Performer Magazine

"Live Review 2"

"It's a different story with Jeffrey Luck Lucas. In fact, his artistic restraint made for a sweet and unexpected sort of tension of its own. I found myself wondering if he and the musicians who accompanied him could manage to remain so gentle--so deliberate and reverent for the duration of the set. Halfway through, my mom leaned over to whisper a one word review in my ear: "sexy," and I saw what she meant. Before they reached us, it was clear that Lucas' thoughts had to pass through a filter of masculine restraint of an increasingly rare type. The understated result was as well crafted as his palomino boots and burnished by a dignified weariness, as if he'd come to the stage straight from some long, back road sojourn. The music itself was a seamless, elegant nearly abstract wash of countrified loveliness, and though his imagery speaks in a darkly romantic southwestern vocabulary of parched landscapes, rusty tin wall crosses and abandoned haciendas, I sometimes also found myself thinking of one of those rural towns of the American south with dirt roads and sugar white hilltop chapels--so peaceful as to be surreal. All this is to say that Lucas' songs were graceful, studied and seriously pretty. They made me want to slow dance with my boyfriend in some shadowy corner of the Utah." --Shannon Coulter -


Jeffrey has 3 studio albums to date: HELL THEN DIVINE (2004), WHAT WE WHISPER (2006), THE LION'S JAW (2009). He has appeared as a guest artist on records by NEUROSIS, STEVE VON TILL, PAULA FRASER, KIRA LYNN CAIN, TOM HEYMAN, CHUCK PROPHET, to name a few. He has also appeared on the compilations I AM A COLD ROCK, I AM DULL GRASS; SONGS FROM ANOTHER PLACE, EYE OF THE BEHOLDER IV, and COMES WITH A SMILE VOL. 10



JEFFREY LUCK LUCAS is a songwriter, composer, and performer who comes from both a classical and a alternative rock background. An original member of THE MORLOCKS (the seminal 80s garage rock outfit) as well as a graduate of cello and composition studies, his music truly encompasses a broad spectrum of emotion and detail. Lucas' has been writing songs since he received an electronic organ when he was 10-- coincidentally the year he began his cello studies-- but he wanted to be a SONGWRITER and a singer when he first heard THE VELVET UNDERGROUND. It was then that he first felt the resonance between word and sound, poet and listener: he knew he had to give back what he had just received. Lucas' music makes you feel and think along; it immerses you: it is not a passive experience. Much like what he describes in his songs, there's a dark romance between the music and the audience... they become partners in crime. It literally took years for Jeffrey to find this music, and when he did, he had the good fortune of being discovered by DESMOND SHEA, an incredible engineer, producer, and musician who's worked with everyone from THE RESIDENTS to TARNATION. Shea and Lucas share a vision, one they've now honed over three critically acclaimed albums. Jeffrey has shared the stage and bill with many acclaimed national and international artists including Stuart Staples and Tindersticks, Jolie Holland, The Willard Grant Conspiracy, Alejandro Escovedo, John Doe, and Chris Whitley.