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2. Lucero–Women and Work
You can pull your hair out looking for some hint of subversion in the music of Lucero—surely, you think, at this point in 2012, frontman Ben Nichols and company can't really expect you to be down with lines like, "The women and the work and the booze in between got you puking in the aisles and smashing TVs." But you'll want to give up the search right now: there's no irony here whatsoever, just a lifelong commitment to the very particular (and, sure, unoriginal) brand of hard-living that goes along with a very particular (and, sure, unoriginal) brand of rock and roll. They do the whiskey-soaked alt-country thing better than anyone else currently working, and they've augmented it with a perfectly enjoyable touch of Memphis Soul, via expertly deployed horns. These songs are full of personal struggles, and of celebration, too, even when it isn't exactly justified.