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Lucero / Bobby Bare Jr. / Whiskey & Co.

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In nine short years of touring like bank bandits, Lucero has become one of the definitive voices in alt-country (... whatever that means). While early releases relied on the simple rural narratives of gravel-voiced singer Ben Nichols, the group's latest "Rebels, Rogues, & Sworn Brothers" aimed for an E-Street bravado with tinkling ivories and B3 organ courtesy of Memphis sideman Rick Steff (Cat Power, Hank Williams, Jr.). Echoes of The Boss, The Replacements and Uncle Tupelo continue to inform the band's big-stage sound, but Lucero mostly sounds like an American band getting better and better each time around.Besides possessing a gargantuan voice than could wake a hibernating bear, opener Bobby Bare Jr. writes some of the most winsome and fragile tunes that the alt-country scene can call its own. But country is merely one of Bare's templates (he is, after all, the son of the great country crooner Bobby Bare), and he's just as likely to dive into amped-up rock and/or horn-section R&B.

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