A quarter of a century since his debut, Southern lick maverick shows no quarter to the unbelievers in the beauty of distress.
From the outside it may seem that Texas blues have long been boiled down to bluster yet, fortunately, there still are artists who understand the importance of nuance, and Lance Lopez is a primary example of those who sense, as opposed to simply perceive, this style’s emotional spectrum – thanks, perhaps, to his umbilical link to the genre’s Delta origins. So if someone’s inclined to think SRV was the last of genuine shakers and movers, LL’s eighth studio offering will prove the doubters wrong as “Trouble Is Good” focuses on the same strand of music while crossing the frontiers of adjacent terrain to also reflect the influences the singing guitarist picked up in his current residence of Nashville. However, with such melodies as laid out here, all the borders become merely mental.
In order to fully grasp the lack of boundaries displayed on this platter, the listener should look no further than its second cut, the infectious and punchy “Jam With Me” which leaves nobody indifferent because resisting the urge to do just that is difficult, the twang ‘n’ wail of opener “Easy To Leave” warning the audience there would be no going back from the heady mix of honeyed licks and heavy riffs. And though Lance’s strident vocals tend to tunefully roar rather than soothe, the roll of his slider and stinging passages sound intoxicatingly cool, especially when acoustic strings of the record’s title track get shrouded in a swampy axe-and-voice unison and spiced up with harmonica before the spirited “Uncivil War” enriches the drift with an ivories-bolstered balladry. But whereas “Wild Country” builds a levee-like wall of Southern jive, letting Lopez sculpt a lava-hot solo, the vibrant “Take A Swing” unleashes a funk-kissed, frantic sonic assault until the gutsy “Trying In The Tri Star State” marries sludge to rumble to a magnificent effect.
That’s why the smile-inducing “Slow Down” feels much lighter than the preceding numbers – the contrast is robust here – and “Reborn” marches with triumphant swagger, unlike the raga-tinged tripartite epic “Voyager” which taps into raging eternity with all the orchestral force LL’s ensemble magically produce to shape into an exotic filigree. All of this can spell trouble, of course – but, of course, in Lance Lopez’s hands trouble is bound to be good.