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Jeffrey Luck Lucas - What We Whisper

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Artist: Jeffrey Luck Lucas

Album: What We Whisper

Label: Antebellum

Review date: Aug. 13, 2006

Darkly gorgeous, unexpectedly uplifting, these nine slow-moving songs traverse desolate nighttime landscapes where conversations in road-houses and at neon-lit kitchen tables drift suddenly from trivialities to life-altering truth. The coffee turns cold, the cigarettes burn down, and all of the sudden someone you love is looking you in the eye, demanding, "Tell me why / your kindest words are just shy of lies." Jeffrey Luck Lucas, a SF-based songwriter who got his start with garage-Kinks The Morlocks before earning a masters in cello composition and performance, is not one to shy away from the confrontational in this, his second solo album. Still, his voice is so gentle and mournful, his arrangements so supple and glowing that you don't see the knife right away...or perhaps, if you're unlucky, at all.

These songs are subtly constructed, autumnal elements like harmonica and accordion surging and receding behind Lucas' weary harmonies. "Just Like Moths," one of the album's most beautiful cuts, spends most of its duration as a sigh turned into verse, as exhausted and unhoping as a song can be. But then, without warning, the song builds into something like triumph, as pedal steel joins with a nearly joyful chorus. "In the Stars' Whirling" is stranger, more enveloping in its gradual billow of string tones, the ice-clear tinkling of keyboards, as Lucas sings of watching a loved one sleep and wondering how another man kisses her.

Lucas' voice in the same soulfully rough family as Will Oldham or Micah Hinson is a large part of this album's appeal. Still, its lone instrumental offering, "Griftos Muertos," has its own menacing charm, with vibrating, high saw tones dancing a tango with accordion and junkyard drums. Moreover, backing musicians David Phillips (on pedal steel) and Wendy Allen of Court and Spark (harmonies) lend velvety textures to Lucas' otherwise sparse songs.

What We Whisper is a world of darkness, poignant regrets and unlooked-for late night solace. Its songs feel simple the way the language in the King James Bible seems simple, as if they had always been there and could not be any other way.

By Jennifer Kelly

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