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Lucero, Dennen add to SCAD-grad concert punch
Ben Nichols (center) and Lucero: The rockin’ soul of Memphis, for free on May 30.

"Gritty," "rough" and "whiskey-soaked" can describe a lot of things, like Congress Street in the wee small hours of a Saturday morning, but they're almost always part of the string of adjectives used to describe the Memphis-based Lucero.

Fronted as always by badass Ben Nichols, Lucero—one of the toughest and most uncompromising country/punk/roots/soul bands to come out of the Deep South—is part of the SCAD “New Alumni” concert Friday, May 30 (along with Mutemath, which you can read about elsewhere in this issue, and pop prince Brett Dennen).

Just how well-regarded is the mighty Lucero? A Sept. 14 concert at Midway Stadium in St. Paul, MN, features just three bands—The Replacements, The Hold Steady and Lucero.

That’s one I’d pay to get into.

The band’s latest take-no-prisoners set, Texas & Tennessee, came out in 2013. Produced by North Mississippi All-Star Cody Dickinson, the eighth Lucero album, according to Nichols, was dialed down a notch from what had come before.

“I just played acoustic guitar on it,” he said. “...I’ve never really played a whole lot of acoustic, so we used a pretty big element of that. Just starting from that acoustic place, that kind of automatically gave it a more down home feeling.”

“We wanted something a little simpler, and I guess some people would call it more old school Lucero-sounding.”

California’s Brett Dennen, meanwhile, has been writing and recording for a little more than 10 years; his music reminds me of those great, smartly-produced mid-1970s Southern California records (Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne).

Still, the red-headed, bespectacled Dennen’s probably best known for his song “Comeback Kid (That’s My Dog),” which is used over the opening credits of the NBC sitcom About a Boy. His (really good) fifth album (from 2013) is Smoke and Mirrors, recorded in Nashville.

The May 30 show starts at 6 p.m., and it’s free to one and all.

Remembering Ben

June 4 will mark the one-year anniversary of Ben Tucker’s tragic death. The Coastal Area Rotary Clubs have a tribute concert going on Saturday, May 31 (4-7 p.m.) at the Ships of the Sea Museum, featuring the leading lights of the Coastal Jazz Association (the group Ben co-founded).

Come and listen to Huxsie Scott, Gina Rene, Claire Fraiser and Roger Moss sing; the band includes guitarist Howard Paul, saxman Jody Espina, Teddy Adams on trombone, Bob Alberti (piano), Billy Hoffman (drums) and Mitch Hennes (bass).

The $35 ticket includes entertainment, food and “adult beverages.” Kids under 12 are free (one assumes they get “kid beverages”). Free trolleys will run from the Coastal Georgia Center. See for details.

Ben was a world-class bassist, a jazz legend, and a heck of a nice man. He was also dedicated to keeping the jazz flame burning in Savannah and was constantly looking for new ways to bring the music to new generations of fans. If you never met him or heard him play, you missed out on something special.

He is very much missed.

News + other stuff

@ Let us welcome back Johan Harvey, Mike LaBombard and the rest of The Royal Noise (that would be Rodrigo Picardo and Aaron Zarrow). This super-tight and fiercely funky instrumental jazz band, which has big fat roots in Savannah (too complicated to go into right now, that particular story) is back with a mighty, mighty third album (This is The Funky Part, recorded right here at Dollhouse Studios). The band plays a celebratory release gig Friday, May 30 at Barrelhouse South. 10 p.m., no cover.

@ The great Junkyard Angel headlines a big charity show Saturday, May 31 at the Knights of Columbus hall, 700 Christopher Drive (right off Waters). The Band Against Cancer Concert Bash, 4 to 9 (ish) p.m., will also feature Hunter Price, and the band Johnny Octane. The benefit is a project by Nick Rintye, Leukemia/Lymphoma Society Man of the Year candidate, who happens to be a Hodgkin Lymphoma survivor (he’s “paying it forward” for the LLS). Cash bar, food for purchase, stuff for kids and more —check out the event Facebook page for the whole magilla. Tickets are $10 adults; kids get an “activity wristband” for $5.

@ COEDS have a super-groovy new cassette single (“Tagalong/Surf’s Up”) that they’ll debut at the Jinx Friday, May 30. The band is part of a very strong bill that also includes Crazy Bag Lady and Cusses. Meanwhile, Angel, Bryan and Brian are currently mixing that highly-anticipated second Cusses album, which they say is sounding mighty sweet.

@ The 2014 Blues on Broughton event, June 6 (there’ll literally be a stage on Broughton Street, between Drayton and Bull will feature the incredible young blues singer Ruthie Foster—who, among many other things, was named the Blues Music Association’s Best Traditional and Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist. She tore it up at the Savannah Music Festival in 2012 (one of my favorite sets that year). It’s 6 to 9 p.m., it’s free, and there will be beer. It is, in fact, tied in with the City’s Blues, Jazz & BBQ event, in the vicinity of Rousakis Plaza (June 6 and 7), with music, food etcetera.

@ Two bands that absolutely smoked at this year’s Savannah Stopover —the Black Cadillacs and Thomas Wynn & the Believers—will co-headline July 23 at the Jinx. Tickets for the Stopover/MusicFile Productions show, $10, are on sale now. Like MusicFile’s recent Charles Bradley and Blitzen Trapper weeknight performances, this one will start early, at 9 p.m. The organization is also bringing the Coathangers (Stopover class of ’13) to the Jinx June 28, and is in pre-production on a second “Revival Fest,” to take place Sept. 20. Tickets for both Jinx shows are available at