The songs, after a long time away, just started floating to the surface for Benmont Tench. He’d been a member of Tom Petty’s staggeringly underrated band the Heartbreakers forever, had even had a Nashville writing gig for a time. (Country fans will remember Tench’s chart-topping co-write for Rosanne Cash, “Never Be You.”)
But there’d been a dry spell, just before Tench began work on what would become You Should Be So Lucky, a period when he was content to simply to work as a sideman. Well, not just as a sideman. As one of the very best in the business, with a career that includes stints with the likes of Don Henley, the Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, Warren Zevon, and a host of others over the years.
Then, they started coming. “Hannah” and “Like the Sun,” and then “Ecor Rouge.” He combined those with “Today I Took Your Picture” and “Dogwood,” songs which dated back a few years, invited a few friends over — including Petty, Ryan Adams (which whom Tench had previously worked alongside Lucky producer Glyn Johns), Gillian Welch and Ringo Starr — and, all of sudden, Tench had an album going.
As such, it sounds both completely his own, and completely in the moment. Perhaps only “Blonde Girl, Blue Dress,” the song that includes Petty, could be confused with Tench’s regular working gig. This isn’t a Heartbreakers record masquerading under the name of one of its most important contributors; we’re finally hearing, it seems, what Tench sounds like unadorned, not trying to pitch something, not trying to fit in.
In fact, such is Tench’s easy-going authenticism that even the Bob Dylan-related covers (“Duquesne Whistle” and the Dylan-arrangement of “Corrina, Corrina”) on You Should Be So Lucky end up sounding of a piece. Tench — who memorably appeared on Dylan’s 1981 album Shot of Love — is so comfortable in his own skin, he can simply let his prodigious talents carry the day.
And so, he does. There’s no artifice, no sales pitch. Lucky, due February 18, 2014 via Blue Note, unfolds with a complete disregard for market forces, image positioning or upworthy buzz. It’s no surprise, then, to learn that Tench recorded the whole thing with friends who lived nearby, and right to tape — nor that he’ll be quickly moving into another studio effort with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers after this. Never one for the spotlight, that’s this old-school old pro’s way of doing things.
Still, we can count ourselves lucky that Tench made time for You Should Be So Lucky in the meantime. It’s a small, good thing — a real thing. A very welcome thing.