Album Review: Lucky Tubb – Damn The Luck

Juli Thanki | July 22nd, 2009

lucky-tubb-damn-the-luckIf your name is Griffey, chances are you’re a ballplayer. Kennedy? You’re a politician. And if your last name is Tubb, well, your legacy lies with country music. In addition to patriarch Ernest, Justin, Billy Lee, (aka X. Lincoln), and Glenn Douglas are a few members of the Tubb clan who’ve worked in the family business. Lucky Tubb is the most recent Tubb to join the industry. Grandnephew to Ernest, Lucky is–to paraphrase the chorus from the album’s title track–“backslidin’ to 1950” with his own modern brand of honky tonk. His star is rapidly on the rise; having opened for artists including Ray Price and Dwight Yoakam, Tubb is currently on tour with Hank Williams III and the Damn Band, which—sad but true—is introducing him to a larger audience than he had playing with Hank Sr.’s old buddy Price.

On sophomore album Damn the Luck, Tubb’s voice bears a resemblance to Ernest’s, however, it may to some degree be an exaggeration of his regular voice. His first album, Generation, features a more on-key Lucky displaying a somewhat wider range, even yodeling (perhaps he had a tonsillectomy in the intervening years a la Uncle Ernest?).

There’s a more overt nod to his lineage than just Lucky’s voice, though. The liner notes mention that his Auntie Rosa “blessed [him]” with over 70 recordings of various Tubb men that he never even knew existed. Of these 70, Lucky chose four that especially spoke to him to cover on Damn the Luck. Three of these were written by his uncle, Glenn Douglas Tubb. Glenn Douglas is quite the prolific songwriter, penning hits for Johnny Cash (“Home of the Blues,” is just one), George and Tammy (“Two Story House”), and a host of others. Not content to stay firmly within the boundaries of “unadulterated” country music, Tubb flirts with rockabilly on the toe-tapping “Annie Don’t Work No More,” written by Ronnie Wade, another relative.

Lucky doesn’t restrict his choice in covers to kinfolk; he also offers up a version of 1966 Mel Tillis’ vicious kiss off “Sweet Mental Revenge.” It’s pretty hard to go wrong with such a well-written song, and Tubb doesn’t disappoint as he matter-of-factly sings ”Well I hope the train from Caribou, Maine/Runs over your sweet love affair/You walk the floor from door to door/And pull out your peroxide hair” while the late Steve England’s pedal steel cries behind him.

The covers are a highlight of the album, but Damn the Luck’s six original tracks aren’t half bad either. Don’t expect any waltzes or tender love songs; the bulk of young Tubb’s work centers around being lovesick to the sounds of the country music pantheon: Bob, Buck, Merle, and “ol’ JC” (Jesus? Close…Johnny Cash) are all referred to in one song or another. At least in those songs, Tubb’s on the right side of the steel bars.

“Huntsville” is based partly on the five years Tubb spent rattling around Texas correctional facilities for possessing fifty-plus pounds of marijuana. Something of a non-love letter, “Huntsville” has Tubb wondering who and what his girl on the outside is doing while he spends his time “Wonderin’ if [he’ll] make it through the night” and fending off the “Mexican wantin’ to make [him] his wife.” Okay, so maybe Lucky Tubb isn’t the next great songwriter, but his songs are simple and catchy, and the fact that he’s backed by an excellent barroom band (his Modern Day Troubadours) makes them even more enjoyable. Of special note is fiddler Natalie Page Monson, who joins a pining Tubb on dancehall duet “Bakersfield” and contributes throaty, sassy backing vocals to juke joint ode “Honky Tonkin’.”

Those looking for Ernest reincarnated may be disappointed with Damn the Luck; he may have both feet planted in the family tradition, but Lucky’s his own man. Fans of solid country music with a strong traditional influence are going to be disappointed too…that the record is only 35 minutes long.

3 Stars

  1. Andrew Lacy
    July 22, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    There seems to be an italics html tag that needs to be closed on this page.

    Otherwise, spot on review. Too bad iTunes and Amazon MP3 don’t have it. I had to go through Snocap to get a digital version.

  2. Stone Ln
    July 22, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    I saw Tubb and gang open up for Hank III in Pittsburgh and was blown away by their hour long set! I should have bought a CD at the show, but was all tour up after Hank III and AssJack. I can’t find the CD anywhere for digital download, but will check out Lacy’s suggestion of Snocap. Otherwise, I guess I’ll buy the physical CD on amazon.
    If you want to read more about the Hank III show, check out my blog – Stone Ln.

  3. Leeann Ward
    July 22, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Sadly, Amazon doesn’t even seem to have clips of this album let alone have it available for download.

  4. Jim C
    July 22, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    saw these guys as the opening act for someone a couple of years ago and they were so bad I went to another bar for a drink until they finished. they could have gotten better, I guess, but I’m guessing not that much better.

  5. Rick
    July 22, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    This sounds like the perfect fodder for another give-away contest! I’d like to hear Lucky but I’m just not willing to take a chance and pay for the privilege. At least not yet anyway…

  6. Jim C
    July 22, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Rick there’s always this:


    yer welcome.

  7. Jon
    July 22, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Well, it’s better than Ethyl And The Regulars, though not by a whole lot.

  8. Ben Milam
    July 22, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    he owes me fifty bucks.

  9. Rick
    July 22, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Thanks Jim C! I went and listened to portions of all of Lucky’s MySpace songs and I’d still like to win a copy of his CD because I’m sure not going to pay for it. Like so many retro-country artists Lucky is just covering familiar ground in a predictable manner. He sounds like a mix of Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams SR. going through old catalog songs and doesn’t bring anything new to the table. BR5-49, and even unknown artist Dave Cox, have created far more interesting music than this using retro styles to develop a fresh take, and Junior Brown makes for a better E.T. style legacy progression. I can see Lucky working the club scene in Texas like Amber Digby and Miss Leslie, but I can’t imagine he will develop much of a fan base elsewhere, except maybe among Hank III’s fans.

    I’d like to add that music wise the backup band sounds very amateurish lending a bar band feel to their overall presentation. A rippin’ steel guitarist could rally perk things up compared to the current simplistic noodling going on. This is a case of shooting for a raw, unpolished sound and getting carried away a bit.

  10. Jon
    July 22, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    “I’d like to add that music wise the backup band sounds very amateurish lending a bar band feel to their overall presentation. A rippin’ steel guitarist could rally perk things up compared to the current simplistic noodling going on. This is a case of shooting for a raw, unpolished sound and getting carried away a bit.”

    This is the fatal weakness in an awful lot of retro and quasi-old-time country, and I think it’s because too many people don’t understand that the acts they’re trying to emulate weren’t themselves shooting for a raw, unpolished sound; instead, they were constantly trying to improve their skills, to – well, to get more polished. For an instructive contrast, check out David Peterson’s new album, Coming On Strong; you can hear a couple of songs from the album on his MySpace page, (the first 3 or 4 are from the album, while the remainder come from an earlier bluegrass project). Of course, Dave’s a great singer anyhow, which helps ;-), but the musicians are an outstanding bunch who understand that “old school” is not a synonym for “rudimentary.”

  11. Stewman
    July 23, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Please, can someone put a moratorium on ALL name checking in songs. I used to think it was just Johnny Cash, but now its EVERYONE.

  12. doodles
    July 25, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    if anyone is looking for his cd check out

  13. SHAINA
    September 18, 2009 at 3:30 pm


  14. Jimmy
    October 5, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    This is for jim c, rick, jon,& anyone else that might have constructive criticism for Lucky. Go buy yourself a Garth brooks ticket & shut the @#&*up.You all don’t have a clue what Lucky Tubb is about,If it werent for Lucky’s Raw unpolished sound, we would have to tolerate a plethora of polished Nashville crap! This album like Generations, is on the money, Lucky Tubb is here to stay. Its a fantastic show & a rock-en after party.

  15. 2112
    October 30, 2009 at 8:15 am

    This review grossly underminds Lucky’s songwriting and does not give the album enough credit. Lucky’s originals on this album exceed the covers except for Sweet Mental Revenge. And to not mention Damn the Luck?!? Did this reviewer really listen to the album? As usual, credit is not given where credit is due in country music. Lucky is right up there with Hank III, Scott H. Birim, etc. for real..real damn good, genuine country music. If one doesn’t go through the roof over this album, that one probably prefers modern day CMT/Nashville/American Idol type country bullshit…

  16. James
    February 2, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    This review is a bunch of trash. I should have stopped reading with the snarky “sad but true” line about Hank3’s spreading of Lucky’s music. Hank is one of the only real revivalists of true outlaw country music. I’d rather swallow bullets than listen to that slick, polished, over-produced pop shit that dominates music row. I bought Lucky’s album at a show, and listen to it at least once a week. It’s awesome. Jon, polishing your skills has nothing to do with losing the raw sound. It’s all about feeling and emotion. Listen to the Johnny Cash American records albums. Stripped down, raw, emotional and his best work. BR5-49 are good, but have no grit what so ever. Those of you with actual taste should check out Lucas Hudgins, great country music with a hell of a voice.

  17. Virginie
    July 28, 2010 at 5:13 am

    I have just heard Lucky and his band in France at the Craponne country festival and they are amazing ! He is now known in France and it seems that he has been very much appreciated, by me the first.
    He has a really nice voice and his own style. He was very generous on the stage and with the public. This guy has lots of talent, i hope he and his family take care of him ! i want to hear lots of his albums! on that point, from the two records i listened to my only disappointment came from the fact they are only 35 minutes long.
    I Hope i will have the luck and opportunity to see him again on stage soon !
    PS: i will listen to Hank III thanks to Lucky…

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