A former punk rocker who rediscovered and returned to the country-flavored Americana of his childhood roots, Austin Lucas, the son of bluegrass producer and songwriter Bob Lucas, best known for his work with Alison Krauss, is a sort of tattoo-covered prodigal son public relations bonanza. The story wouldn't matter much, though, if he weren't also immensely talented. Lucas is a finely tuned and intelligent songwriter, his best songs taking on larger themes within smaller ones, and he sings with an easy, just slightly ragged voice that would make any Nashville hopeful proud. Oh, and he plays pretty good guitar, piano, and bass, too. His latest solo effort, Stay Reckless, which he co-produced with Mark Nevers, is a folk-country gem, more country than anything else, good enough and catchy enough to be played in heavy rotation on contemporary country stations, but way too maverick, smart, and outlaw to have that ever happen, at least unless things change, which doesn't seem likely anytime soon. The best songs here, including the radio-ready and infectious "Small Town Heart" and the striking album closer, "Splinters," a country ballad that manages to explore the harsh truths of an emotional breakup while also touching on cultural divisions, lifestyle choices, and God and religion with an accessible yet intense focus, carry the kind of smart, straight honesty that one wishes more contemporary country songs had. This is a solid album, and although not every song hits home immediately, the intelligence of Lucas' songwriting is there in all of them.
Stay Reckless Review
by Steve Leggett