Austin Lucas: Between the Moon and the Midwest

Between the Moon and the Midwest is a collection of tales told by those with broken hearts and proud souls.

Austin Lucas

Between the Moon and the Midwest

Label: Last Chance
US Release Date: 2016-05-27
UK Release Date: 2016-02-19

The modern archetype of the musical troubadour, Austin Lucas is a songwriter's songwriter. With a voice that falls between God-given and refined by years of training, it bleeds tradition and adds gravitas to his words (which have straddled a blurred line between Americana and country during his last decade recording solo material). The son of a bluegrass musician, Lucas, who, in an interview with CMT Edge, once called country music "the purest and most beautiful form of American music", turns his full attention to the classic genre on his latest, Between the Moon and the Midwest.

After 2013's label-polished Stay Reckless, which featured Tennessee's Glossary as his backing band, Lucas tapped the group's Joey Kneiser the following year to produce Between the Moon and the Midwest, a collection of tales told by those with broken hearts and proud souls. Drawing from personal experience that predated Stay Reckless, Lucas channels his internal tumult into a countrified love triangle of cold months and dark hours. Written in 2011, the ten finished songs on Between the Moon and the Midwest have remained shelved for almost two years following Lucas's departure from label New West.

Perhaps the wait will prove fortuitous for Lucas, given the recent interest in traditional country music rejuvenated by artists such as Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton. Like Simpson's recent song cycle, A Sailor's Guide to Earth, Lucas himself spins a concept album—albeit one predicated on story lines and characters rather than overarching themes—with Between the Moon and the Midwest. Featuring the hapless musician Richard and his milquetoast foil, William, the two friends are torn apart by their love for firebrand Kristie Rae, one whose "Purty little fists still hurt when the gloves came off". Paced like a novel, the wide-eyed naïveté of "Ain't We Free" quickly succumbs to the reality of "Wrong Side of the Dream", a plaintive duet with alt-country songstress Lydia Loveless, who voices the lines of Kristie Rae throughout the album.

Without spoiling the story arc, genre tropes such as vindictiveness, infidelity, and atonement surface in a manner heretofore unpresented on a country album. Under Kneiser's helm, pedal steel and Telecaster twang rightfully account for much of the sound on Between the Moon and the Midwest, eliciting echoing harmonies from Lucas and Loveless while layering on a healthy swath of piano and reverb, as on the droning "Next to You". Here, Kneiser focuses on the vastness that falls between the album's title poles, with the album's characters left to meander in their own narrowly-prescribed worlds.

Given Between the Moon and the Midwest's lyrical cohesiveness, Lucas is wise enough to provide songs with room to stand on their own as singles: with its edge-of-midnight atmosphere, prescient opener "Unbroken Hearts" stands as a belated rebuke of Lucas's former label, with Lucas singing, "I hear there's no good men left / Everyone in Nashville's deaf / Sad songs are a thing of the past". Without naming names, "Wrong Side of the Dream" prefaces the emotionally raw ballad "Pray for Rain", which gives way to the barroom stomp of "The Flame".

There are no beaches or tailgates to be found on Between the Moon and the Midwest, just erudite songwriting, studied musicianship, and non-native production that deliver the plain truth of the human condition -- just as country music should.





The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.


Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.


Americana's Sarah Peacock Finds Beauty Beneath Surface With "Mojave" (premiere + interview)

Born from personal pain, "Mojave" is evidence of Sarah Peacock's perseverance and resilience. "When we go through some of the dry seasons in our life, when we do the most growing, is often when we're in pain. It's a reminder of how alive you really are", she says.


Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.


Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.


The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.


Dustbowl Revival's "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)" Is a Cheeky Reproach of COVID-19 (premiere)

Inspired by John Prine, Dustbowl Revival's latest single, "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)", approaches the COVID-19 pandemic with wit and good humor.


The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.