“Drummer makes solo album” is seldom a cause for celebration (there are exceptions of course, just see Levon Helm and Simone Felice) but in the main it’s not the best of news. It does help if the drummer in question has a track record as a writer and singer and Luke Tuchscherer ably manages both duties in addition to the sticks in his day job with country rockers, The Whybirds. While The Whybirds muscled up on their last release, A Little Blood, at times coming across as a power trio, here Tuchscherer goes in the opposite direction, ditching the rock in favour of an excellent set of acoustic based songs which hark back to seventies LA country folk with pedal steel, keyboards and occasional strings sweetening the mix.
The album title is a direct lift from a volume of poetry by Charles Bukowski, barfly and bum, a man able to create art from abject degradation and the privations of a serious drink habit. Gritty stuff but while Tuchscherer dwells for the most part here on lost love, fumbled lust and solace in drinking his writing is more of a doomed romantic bent with little of Bukowksi’s self disgust. Rather he recalls the existential emptiness of Townes Van Zandt, forlorn and resigned, telling a tale over which he has no control. Indeed there are moments on the album such as (To Make It Worse) I’m Falling In Love Again with its weeping cello and mournful harmonica which recall Townes on the likes of Our Mother The Mountain. There are shades of other forebears on the album with the snarly Dobro driven (Lord Knows) I’m A Bad Man recalling Steve Earle while Three Long Days lopes along like one of Steve Goodman’s bitter sweet laments. In the main however Tuchscherer takes on familiar styles delivering his downbeat tales with sweeteners such as the breezy Bakersfield sound on When Day Is Done and The Band like rootsy stomp of One Of Us. Women is a sprightly country gem of a song with some sparkling mandolin but the standout song is Hold On with its wearied vocal refrain and superb acoustic bedrock adorned by some evocative guitar stylings.
Tuchscherer’s blessed with a fine voice, slightly weary in its delivery and he’s ably supported by Whybirds band mates, Dave Banks on guitar, mandolin and banjo and Ben Haswell on guitar along with Max Hart on piano and pedal steel, Nick Mailing, bass, Simon Rinaldo, Hammond and Chris Corney on Dobro, banjo and lap steel at various times while producer Tom Peters handles drum duties. While the Whybirds remain a going concern it appears that Tuchscherer has assembled his own band, The Penny Dreadfuls, to accompany him on some live dates. Hopefully he’ll make an appearance north of the border at some point soon.