Ben Nichols was a child of punk, inducted as a youth into the underground world of VFW halls, basement shows and illegal public park performances rife with underage drinking. When he started Lucero after moving to Memphis, it was something of a lark to cheese off his old punk cronies with the band's traditional country sound. But hooking up with Memphis peers Cody and Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars) ensured Lucero's debut wouldn't just disappear into the stacks of new CDs. Their help and production contributed mightily to the crispness of the band's first two releases. Nichols has always been a punker at heart, though, and Lucero's third album, That Much Further West, finds the band convening at the ragged, country-rock corner that the Stones visited in the late '60s and The Replacements did in the '80s, which is now blanketed by the likes of Slobberbone, Drive-By Truckers, and The Old 97s. With his hoarse rasp and crunchy guitar twang, Nichols ought to fit right in.