Scott Lucas is having a busy year.
The Lake County native has been touring recently with his acclaimed alt-rock band, Local H. Early next week, a new record from his other band, Scott Lucas & The Married Men, will hit store shelves, and he'll begin touring with that group.
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Then, sometime this fall, a new Local H record will come out. Got all that?
"Yeah, there's a lot going on," Lucas said with a laugh. "But in this business, that's much better than the alternative."
The new Married Men album, "Blood Half Moon" (The End Records), comes out Tuesday, June 5. The band will perform Saturday, June 9, at the venerable Metro rock club in Chicago.
The album contains the same country-music touches as previous Married Men releases; violin, organ and accordion are prominent elements throughout. But the album feels darker and heavier overall. The guitars sound a bit more jagged, and Lucas' lyrics explore themes of age and decay and death.
"That's just what came out as I was writing these songs," Lucas said. "Sometimes I sit down and consciously decide to write about certain subjects, but that wasn't the case with this record. These songs just happened."
Opening track "Lover, the Lullaby" gets things started with mournful organ and violin that suggest a barren landscape straight out of a Sergio Leone film. "Old Worries" is a mid-tempo meditation on end-of-life regrets with a soulful vocal by Lucas and that ever-present, shimmering violin.
As usual, Lucas and his band don't shy away from epic gestures. Three of the record's eight songs run longer than six minutes each. Two songs -- "Out of the Boat" and a cover of Johnny Cash's "There Ain't No Grave (Gonna Hold My Body Down)" -- run for more than 17 minutes combined.
These longer pieces never feel bloated or excessive. "There Ain't No Grave," in particular, pulls the listener along with such controlled menace and fury -- Lucas is in great scream-and-shout mode here -- that if anything, the song meets its end too soon.
"Epic is absolutely what we go for on these songs," Lucas said. "When I was a kid, I loved Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, so the idea of 'is this song too long?' just isn't a big deal to me."
The Married Men are a relatively recent project for Lucas, a graduate of Zion-Benton Township High School who first emerged on the rock scene with Local H in the mid-1990s. The first Married Men record, "George Lassos the Moon," came out in 2010.
Lucas said the project allows him to explore song structures and musical ideas that wouldn't necessarily work on a record by Local H, a band known for its stark guitar-and-drums attack.
"I love having this other band to write and perform with," he said. "It's good to be able to flex different muscles."
Both bands spend quite a bit of time on the road, almost to the point where it seems like Lucas is playing somewhere every weekend. He particularly likes playing in front of hometown crowds in the city and all over the suburbs.
"We play wherever it seems like people want to hear us," he said. "If that's in Chicago, excellent. If it's in a small bar in Glendale Heights or Palatine, that's just as great. Maybe because I didn't grow up in the city, I don't feel like concert opportunities have to begin and end there."
As Lucas prepares to hit the road with the Married Men, Local H fans can rest assured that a long-awaited new record from that band is on the way.
"It's done, finished," Lucas said. "Right now it looks like October is when it will come out. It will definitely be before the November election, because the new album is a flat-out political screed.
"I feel good about everything that's happening with the bands this year," he added. "Even though I've been doing this for awhile now, it's still every bit as energizing. I think that's because I really invest myself in every album. I've never looked at a Married Men or Local H record as 'product.' That's something I'm proud of."