Singer-songwriter and former Fountain Valley High School student Erika Luckett returns to the Springs for an intimate concert Saturday evening at The Warehouse. Thawing out from the winter, the Friends House Concerts group is organizing the dig to celebrate Luckett's fourth album, Unexpected.
Crisp, enticing vocals, exceptionally adept guitar work, an intriguing sensibility of Latin flavor and poetic lyricism that thrives on simplicity are staples of Luckett's most recent work. Identifying her talent is simple; identifying her style is a thorny issue of deconstruction, which is boring and pointless. Luckett is a cultural sponge soaking up foreign influences, languages and emotions, integrating these disparate elements with an innate sense of Americana, producing a novel form delivered with a sincere and passionate voice.
Luckett has only begun promoting the album on the West Coast and already it is drawing promising reviews. This will come as no surprise to those already in on her previous work. The New Orleans Sessions (2003), her last release, continues to be wildly popular for the same reasons that make the 11 songs of Unexpected such a fascinating journey.
The first cut on the album, "Were I," previews the complexity that Luckett pours into each song. The Latin-pop riffs, almost maudlin, are awkward with New Age philosophical lyrics. But it is hard to imagine Luckett taking an unmeasured step. The resolution appears to be both thematic and technical: Sinew and bones/ I am bedrock and valley. The songwriter asserts her mettle with simple words that work because of Luckett's most effective instrument -- her voice. Each element of the song is deliberate. The maudlin riffs are not ill-thought choices but rather playful examples of Luckett's artistic curiosity. The minimalist lyrics, whether intentionally or not, emphasize her poise.
Luckett moves easily between styles from folksy Americana to fiery male Latinism and chanteuse Edith Pilaf style. She switches languages unselfconsciously in the second track of Unexpected, "Si volver." The song tells of an abandoned man, sitting in his empty house, pining for his lost woman. Luckett's voice springs and recoils, word to word, sing-jay style, reaching climax in the chorus, "No sabe si volver, si volver nadie podr decir si ella volver." It is one of the album's highlights, though not for the novelty of foreignness. Luckett's voice is piercing and the chorus overwhelms the other senses, completely gratifying the ears.
She pulls off this ecstasy-for-the-ears again in "Deixa-Let Go." The song meanders along remarking about the transience of nature. Again, the lyrics are terse and uncomplicated. Although there is no mention of love in this song, Luckett piles on the emotion with sensual vocals that drive home her penned ideas.
The album is a joy to explore -- rewinding and repeating songs, studying the lyrics or concentrating on the sounds. Each listen reveals another layer of her deliberate art. Listening to her is also a lesson. Luckett is as much a sage imparting the finer points of the art of chilling as she is a talented musician weaving songs with threads of complex emotion. In each of the 11 songs, Luckett is poised and assured, seamlessly switching styles, languages and emotions. This album will surely raise eyebrows as one of the more artistically complete and enjoyable of the year.
And by a former Colorado Springs girl, no less.
-- Aaron Menza
Erika Luckett Unexpected CD release party
Saturday, March 12, 7 p.m.
The Warehouse, 25 W. Cimarron St.
Artist donation: $13 in advance, $16 at door.
Mail donation to Friends House Concerts, PO Box 38943, Colorado Springs, CO 80937
Call 329-1644 for more info.