Fans used to compare local pop-rock performer Lucas Cates to John Mayer and Jack Johnson, but his newest album has him sounding gruffer and tougher, with a few more scars and perhaps a tattoo.
Cates probably won't be joining a biker gang or a psychobilly band anytime soon, but perhaps he'll find his band opening for the BoDeans, Toad the Wet Sprocket or Counting Crows one of these days. In the meantime, he's got more cities to tour, more tracks to record and many more songs to write. As such, his band's new, self-titled album doesn't just show off his powerful, passionate voice. It's a resume of sorts for a talented songwriter looking to explore the big, bad world.
This is especially true of the album's closing track, "Turn the Light On," which starts out with the confession "Oh so strong, sang this song / Just to widen my horizon." The track seems to be about Cates' quest to break out of Triple-A radio and into the limelight. However, it's also a good example of how a song can start small and build into something memorable, even majestic. It's just Cates' baritone and an acoustic guitar for the first 25 seconds, serenading you like a rough-and-tumble troubadour. When the drums bust in, the tune transforms into a soundtrack for driving or a theme song for a romantic comedy.
While many pop tunes would simply cycle between these two poles, Cates and company use them as a launching pad, soaring into a rock 'n' roll lullaby 40 seconds later, then unleashing some heavy strumming, lovely bits of violin and an electric guitar solo that's Guns N' Roses-ready. The formula's not new, but it's musically tight and sure to snag at least a few more fans for this local favorite.
Listen to an MP3 of "Turn the Light On" in the related files at right. More music by the Lucas Cates Band is available on its Facebook profile and MySpace page. Catch an acoustic set by the band when it performs at Sprecher's on Thursday, November 4.
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