Sick of your music right now? Anytime you need an album full of captivating songwriting or need to be entertained by only an acoustic guitar and a busted tambourine, Portland’s own, Lightnin’ Luke just might be what the Americana doctors ordered to cure whatever ails you. The 2019 release of album, Volume 2 (I hope Volume 1 is coming next) is chock full of tales and woes from old-timey American culture.
This entire collection has been a refreshing breath of western wagon dust and Appalachian lust for a listener who’s ears have beaten like yesterday’s throw rugs. Luke, (we’re on a first-name basis now) is normally a fiddle player, and a gangster one at that, but this album does not have much fiddle work on it; try to catch up, will you? Instead, Volume 2 corrals the listener into incredible songs of love and loss, blues and brews and vintage Americana tones and songwriting. Luke’s vocal delivery is a “best of” performance, he knows just where to be soulful, where to be playful and just where to overdrive his vocal mic, sending the listener into a euphoria of yesteryear production.
Lightnin’ Luke sometimes fancies himself a croonin’ cowboy or even a blues vocalist extraordinaire, we’re fine with either. The recordings on this album are authentic and austere. Moderately-tuned guitars and genuine vocal delivery take the listener on a journey through great moments in Americana music history, Rockabilly and Jazz to boot.
At a few points, Lightnin’ crafts some modern ballads with modern chord progressions under the watchful eye of early instrumentation and production. Check out Phoenix Sunrise and Look Me Up When You Get Time. Both songs, anachronisms respectively and through responsible listening, the only way to tell what century you’re actually listening in.
Lightnin’ Luke’s voice is a national treasure like any famous orator or broadcaster of the day. Moments he careens into his falsetto or emulates a muted trombone vocally or starts and stops songs midstream are recorded gold. I don’t know exactly who to recommend this album to, so I will recommend it to everyone with ears and an appetite for wide-open spaces and sonic hauntings. My Walking Stick: personal favorite on the album.
Get yourself some Hank Williams, Bridge City Sinners, Lightnin’ Luke and bail money, and you got yourself a playlist.
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Chris Ambrosino hails from the Catskill region of New York and has been a performer and songwriter since 1987. He also has worked as an art director and graphic artist for several organizations. Chris currently plays and writes for indie band, Blue Ribbon and is a contributing writer for the Alt. Daily blog and For The Love Of Bands website. He has resided in Hampton Roads, VA since 1994.