Ben Nichols solo show at Ron Robinson Friday

August 26, 2014

Lucero is slowing down.

ben_nichols_mobileAfter 16 years of almost non-stop touring, the Memphis-based alt-punk-country-soul band, may only play 130 dates this year, way down from the 250 they were playing a couple of years ago. But the band’s frontman and songwriter Ben Nichols is playing around 30 solo shows on his own. So he’s not completely slacking off.

One of those shows will happen Friday night, at the Ron Robinson Theater in downtown Little Rock. The concert is presented by Arkansas Sounds, a project of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. (Tickets are $20 and — as of this morning — a few are still available.) Nichols, a Little Rock native, is bringing his guitar, his remarkable whisky and nicotine voice and a bunch of songs.

“The solo show gives me a little more latitude,” Nichols says from Memphis. “I’ll play a couple of things off the solo record [2008’s The Last Pale Light in the West, a suite of seven songs based on characters from Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian], but I’ll also do a lot of Lucero songs and some covers; I’ve gotten to know a lot of great singer-songwriters so I’ll do some of my friends’ songs — songs I wish I’d written.”

The show will be somewhat looser than a regular band gig, he says, with him making up the set list as he goes along and — “for better or worse” — telling some stories.

Nichols says the band is set up in a studio space rehearsing now, and there might be a new Lucero album out by April of next year.

“If I can finish the songs, we have some time in October and November set aside to record,” he says. The break in touring has given him a chance to work on some new songs (“I have to be alone to write, and, obviously, when you’re on the road, you’re never alone.”) and he says he’s been trying to bring new material to the band’s at their daily sessions. He’s also has plans for another solo record, and he has contributed a track for his film director baby brother Jeff Nichols’ next project, Midnight Special (which starts filming in January and is tentatively scheduled to be released in November 2015).

“I don’t know whether he’ll use it or not,” Nichols says, “it’s sort of a weird song.”

If you’re thinking about going to the show but need a quick Lucero/Nichols primer, earlier this month Lucero released the 32-track, two CD Live from Atlanta which includes songs from each of the band’s nine studio albums — from 2000’s Attic Tapes to last year’s Texas and Tennessee EP. In the Democrat-Gazette, Sean Clancy called it “ the sound of a band 15 years into a career of constant touring behind songs about broken hearts, busted knuckles and blackout drunks … a fantastic document of a band that is still vital, powerful and obviously having a blast.”


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