Stream Rust Belt Punk-Turned-Troubadour Austin Lucas' Gritty New Album
The sepia-tinted LP, 'Immortal Americans,' is a meditation on the darkness and light of growing up in a blighted Rust Belt.
Photo courtesy of Austin Lucas
I first met Austin Lucas at 2018's Workers Revival Fest, a Jobs For Justice event in Kansas City, Missouri. He was introduced to me by a friend as "a metal/punk dude with good politics who plays country music," which is about as much as it takes for me to make a new pal these days. We hit it off and had one of those good barroom conversations that foster instant camaraderie; I was excited to see him play later that evening, and his gothic take on Americana and dusty, nakedly honest meditations on living and dying in the Rust Belt hit me, hard.
Armed with just an acoustic guitar, a warm, rusty twang, some self-deprecating jokes, and a few well-placed yodels, Lucas played us all like a fiddle. When he strode out into the crowd with only his acoustic guitar and sang out the words to his 2013 traveler's ode "Alone in Memphis," you could feel the air go out of the room—we all gathered close, pulled together by invisible strings, and even those who didn't know the words ended up singing along. It was a powerful moment in a powerful place, and cemented my appreciation for his work on- and offstage.
Lucas hails from Bloomington, Indiana, which will be a familiar locale to a certain strain and generation of punk rockers; he left home to pursue music and escape the drudgery of Midwestern darkness, but returned after a few years in the wilderness to find his hometown consumed by an opioid epidemic, an HIV crisis, and a homelessness problem. Once home, Lucas worked to regain his own strength and fighting spirit, getting sober, losing over 100 pounds, reconnecting with his roots, and working to support his partner as she battled cancer. The result, Immortal Americans, plumbs the depths of his own memories as a young outsider as well as more universal themes of personal growth, love, aging, and loss.
It's a beautiful slice of Americana, crafted in the shadows of dying factories and institutional neglect—a compelling, brutal snapshot of what happens when the American dream turns to ashes.
"The album was written in no small part as tribute to the quickly changing region of Indiana I grew up in," Lucas told Noisey. "I deliberately placed this body of work, squarely between the darkness of where I once saw my place in the world, and the light that I see myself moving towards now."
"Imagining these songs as a collection of anthems for the most marginalized and at risk members of our society, Immortal Americans began materializing unexpectedly. It happened after a bittersweet homecoming, during the longest nights of winter, while my partner slept in the other room. Her body healing from invasive surgeries and months of exhausting chemotherapy. I became inspired by observing her strength throughout her struggle with cancer. Resolving to confront the adversity I was also facing, I drove myself to rise from my own personal bottom. Simultaneously finding both a will to get healthier, and to write songs for an album I was previously unsure I’d ever have the desire or opportunity to make."
Immortal Americans is out August 17 on Cornelius Chapel Records; stream it in its entirety below, and catch Lucas on tour if you can—I promise you, seeing him play is a revelation.
Aug 16 - Louisville KY - Magbar
Aug 17 Bloomington IN - The Bishop
Aug 18 - Columbus OH - Rumba Café
Aug 19 – Harrisburg, PA – Whitaker Center-Sunoco Performance Theater
Aug 23 – Chicago, IL – Chop Shop
Aug 24 – Minneapolis, MN – Hook and Ladder
Aug 25 – Appleton, WI – Mill Creek
Aug 30 – Birmingham, AL – The Nick
Aug 31 - Birmingham AL - Seasick Records ( In-store appearance)
Sept 1 – Asheville, NC – The Odditorium
Sept 12 - Nashville, TN – AMERICANAFEST (The Local)
Sept 14 – Chicago, IL – Cobra Lounge*
Sept 16 Pittsburgh, PA - Club Café*
Sept 17 - Buffalo, NY - Rec Room*
Sept 18 - Brooklyn, NY - Knitting Factory*
Sept 19 - New York, NY - City Winery*
Sept 20 - Garwood, NJ – Crossroads*
Sept 21 Croydon, PA – Neshaminy Creek Brewing*
Sept 22 - Ithaca, NY - The Haunt*
Sept 23 - Boston, MA - City Winery*
Sept 25 - Virginia Beach, VA – Shakas*
Sept 26 - Washington, DC - City Winery*
Sept 27 - Richmond, VA – Broadberry*
Sept 28 - Atlanta, GA - City Winery*
Sept 29 - Cincinnati, OH – North Yacht Club*
Sept 30 - Nashville, TN - City Winery*
* w/ Face To Face
Kim Kelly is feeling homesick for the backwoods on Twitter.