Before Dave Cobb was Dave Cobb, and Sturgill Simpson was Sturgill Simpson, Dave Cobb produced an album for Edmonton, Alberta singer and songwriter Lucette called Black Is The Color, and Sturgill Simpson appeared prominently in the video of the evocative murder ballad and signature song “Bobby Reid.” Now five years later, Sturgill has reunited with Lucette on a new record called Deluxe Hotel Room that will be released via Rock Creek Music/Thirty Tigers on May 17th.
Lucette’s Black Is The Color was a dark and rootsy exploration of primitive American country folk, and was cut right as Dave Cobb was becoming the hot item in Americana from the work he’d done with Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell. When Sturgill appeared along with Col. JD Wilkes of Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers in the the video for “Bobby Reid” produced by Judd Films, Sturgill’s magnum opus Metamodern Sounds in Country Music was becoming all the rage in independent country. But Lucette got sort of lost in the shuffle as Sturgill continued to explode, and Dave Cobb continued to produce one landmark album after another.
Then Lucette’s “Billy Reid” appeared in the Netflix special Nanette in 2017, and the song now has over 4.3 million streams on Spotify. To put that into context, that’s nearly 2 million more than Margo Price’s biggest song on the format. This illustrates the sort of quiet, bubbling under success Lucette has achieved without the press or public paying much attention. Even after announcing this new album two weeks ago, no other outlet has reported on it.
Songwriting is a said to be one central element to the record. “To me these songs are a way of getting through to anyone who’s had problems with depression or anxiety or issues with their body and, letting them know they’re not the only ones who feel lost sometimes,” says Lucette. “Making the album helped me realize that my strength doesn’t lie in how a partner or the public sees me—it’s about being open about mistakes I’ve made and things I’ve been through, and then moving forward with hope.”
But if you’re a country fan, don’t get your hopes up too high that Deluxe Hotel Room will be another exclusively dark and rootsy affair from Lucette like her last one. In fact the rumors that have been swirling about this record for a while as being a combination of primitive roots along with heavy synth and electronica seem to be corroborated in the press release that accompanied the announcement. “Her collaboration with Simpson pushed her sound even further, by incorporating synth lines, drum-machine beats and soulful saxophone tones to create a style that keeps one foot firmly planted in tradition while the other takes a giant step forward,” the press release reads.
Lucette underpins this herself by saying, “A lot of the songs are very traditional in their roots, but Sturgill and I had this idea of producing them in a more pop-leaning ways. There’s only one or two guitar tracks on the whole record, and instead of putting banjos or pedal steel all over the place, we did it up in a way that felt a lot more genuine to my upbringing and character.”
Deluxe Hotel Room was recorded at The Butcher Shoppe in Nashville where Sturgill keeps an office with John Prine, and Sturgill used his road band in the recording process. New Orleans saxophone player Brad Walker also appears on the album.
Some Sturgill Simpson fans may remember the rumors and quotes from Sturgill Simpson himself ahead of the release of his Grammy-winning A Sailor’s Guide to Earth that he’d been experimenting with synthesizers and drum machines, leaving some to speculate that A Sailor’s Guide could be an EDM record in part or whole. Of course that never materialized even remotely, but perhaps Lucette’s Deluxe Hotel Room will turn out to be the outlet for Sturgill’s synthesizer passion, and Lucette’s, along with incorporating the roots foundation of both Sturgill’s own sound and influences, and the established sound of Lucette.
Either way, this will be a very interesting project to watch develop. After seeing what happened to Tyler Childers after Sturgill Simpson produced Purgatory, you have to keep one eye on a project like this even if it may not fit your sonic appeal. At the moment, no music from Deluxe Hotel Room has surfaced, but expect to hear something in the coming weeks. Meanwhile Simpson himself is starting to become well overdue for news on a new album of his own. Don’t be surprised to hear something on that front soon.