...like listening to a drunken man mumbling through his life story.
Darren Overs Pearson 2005
All moods are covered here from ennui to utter misery. Lovely. At the age of 15, after five years of cello studies, a tall skinny guy casually approaches Jeffrey Luck Lucas. Does he play bass? Trading in one four-stringed instrument for another he hits the punk scene, ends up forming Morlock and then burns out. What next? Back to school to reclaim that cello, then, realising his mistake, he decides to work on those songs that have haunted him for years.
Rather than the usual collection of songs, Hell Then Divine is like listening to a drunken man mumbling through his life story. Sometimes banal, occasionally bizarre, the story is somehow gripping as you strain to listen.
In the background a bunch of good ol' boys strum and twang in a narcotic haze. Lucas' voice could be Tom Waits after clearing his throat; it'sa rasping drawl describing misery and acceptance.
Everything is haunting, from Desmond Shea's baleful trumpet to Chris Mulhauser's baritone guitar, and low frequencies are well catered for. The music swells with Lucas using his cello bow on guitar and cymbals, while both pedal and lap steel ply their lachrymose trade.
There are few direct references to the '40s and '50s country and Mexican folk Lucas cites as influences. Instead, he uses the instrumentation and atmosphere of those genres while taking a more contemporary attitude. The production allows the music to breath and the voice to wander. From "Sway To The Roll" - which conjures up The Walker Bros' "No Regrets" - through the sweet hangover blues of "Shine" to "Midnight Texas", with its hints of Willie Mitchell, the music swaggers defiantly.
Lucas recounts his woeful stories slowly and deliberately,blurring the line between nightmares and dreams. Past the roadside bars and whorehouses, down a featureless two-lane highway to oblivion: he isn't afraid; he feels nothing. This record must be taken on its own terms;it's unyielding, even bloody minded at times.