If you're just discovering the startling talents of Austin Lucas, you've got a little catching up to do. The son of Alison Krauss producer Bob Lucas, Austin has a music resume dating back nearly 20 years with band stints from the late '90s into the new millennium. Lucas launched his largely folk/punk solo career with 2006's "The Common Cold," followed by recording and touring with Hot Water Music front man Chuck Ragan and a series of under-the-radar indie folk releases. In 2011, Lucas explored his country inclinations with "A New Home in the Old World" and expanded those explorations on 2013's "Stay Reckless," but during those sessions, Lucas' marriage unraveled which resulted in dark new songs that reflected his pain and uncertainty. Lucas set aside his new material in order to concentrate on recording and touring "Stay Reckless."
In 2015, Lucas revisited the songs conceived around the time of his divorce while struggling with a new bout of depression. Drawing on influences like Buck Owens and George Jones, Lucas began assembling "Between the Moon & the Midwest," a conceptual song cycle about love, loss, loyalty and betrayal from the viewpoint of a fictional but familiar couple. Aided by friend and Glossary front man Joey Kneiser, Lucas crafted a magnificent soundtrack that bristles with country authenticity and sparkles with cosmic cowboy tracers, sounding like a brilliant collaboration between Dwight Yoakam and Sturgill Simpson.
The lead track, "Unbroken Heart," slams with outlaw country fury while shimmering with a psychedelic buzz, while "Ain't We Free" offers plenty of Waylon Jennings swagger and Shooter Jennings attitude. One of the many highlights of "Between the Moon & the Midwest" is Lucas' transcendent duet with Lydia Loveless on "The Wrong Side of the Dream," a detailed account of the downside of life on the road, and the gentle "Pray for Rain" and propulsive "The Flame" should be elbowing their way up the straight country charts. Or perhaps we should just dispense with genre tags and call it good music and place Austin Lucas at the top of that chart.