Album: Nick Luca Trio

Little Town, Loose

As an all-purpose producer, engineer, and musician at Wavelab Studios in Tucson Arizona, the keyboardist Nick Luca has recorded or performed with a host of the city's alt.country luminaries, including such illustrious names as Giant Sand, Rainer and Calexico; but as this debut album shows, his own musical leanings are rather more outré than country-rock, taking in jazz, R&B and contemporary classical music. The songs on Little Town are a series of glimpses of smalltown scenes, impressionistic tableaux in which physical surroundings correspond to emotional states, from the Norman Rockwell Nighthawks at the Diner 3am mood of "Anywhere in America" ("The city is half asleep/ A lonely car drives down main street/ Past the downtown concrete") to the bluesy, organ-based "Little Town" itself, a sombre sketch of characters trapped in provincial entropy. At their best, the songs capture individuals at pivotal moments of stress: rejecting a friend's avoidance of confrontation in "Rely on Goodbye", for instance, or learning of a death in "Past Away" ("In the night/ Phone call came/ Cruel trick/ Life's big game"). Luca's musically adept – even the instrumental "Mind Walk", with its sparse piano figure, shifty percussion and wash of electronic wind seems charged with life – although his weak voice often lets the material down. But there are several excellent pieces here, notably the unrequited love scene "Lonely", on which Calexico's John Convertino adds vibes and accordion drone to Luca's description of a desolate emotional wasteland: "The old broken street lamps/ The grass on the tracks/ Fires in barrels/ Broken glass."

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