The Lucky Nows celebrate their debut album at The Ark

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

The Luck Nows

Jen Cass has been developing a following as a singer-songwriter dating back to appearances at The Ark’s open mic night while she was a student at the University of Michigan. Since then she’s released three albums and done a considerable number of live shows.

But in 2013, she started dating fellow musician Eric Janetsky, and naturally, they started performing music together. That was the start of The Lucky Nows, which started as a duo but evolved into a full band. Now they are releasing Rise, their debut album as a group, complete with a release party at The Ark on May 31 -- which also happens to be the couple’s fourth wedding anniversary.

“We finally decided to make the transition to a full-band when we'd been booked to play The Ark, Nor-East'r fest, and several other shows where a fuller sound just made sense,” Cass says.  “We are fortunate to live in Michigan's Tri-Cities area, which has become a magnet for musicians, so we got to choose from the absolute best players out there. We couldn't be happier with The Lucky Nows' lineup, and the deep and diverse range of music we write, produce and play together.”

The band consists of Cass on guitar and ukulele; Janetsky on guitar and banjo; Jon Potrykus on violin, cello, guitar, and dobro; Michael Robertson on guitar, lap steel, National steel and banjo; and Rosco Selley on harmonica. All the members contribute vocals, with Cass handling most of the leads but Janetsky and Potrykus doing some as well. Cass describes the sound as “high-energy Americana with a folk and blues edge.”

The band’s name came from the Ryan Adams song “Lucky Now.” “Eric and I took a road trip when we were first dating and spent the time swapping our favorite music,” Cass says. “That weekend was incredibly important for me and Eric because it really cemented what we both already suspected: we were absolutely going to get married. So that moment of pulling up along a gravel road to a perfect little cottage on a lake with Ryan Adams singing us that song became a part of our love story. When we named our duo a few weeks later, it was the first and only name we ever considered.” 

The new album opens with a Cass song called “Against the Black,” which has an interesting history:

I have been friends with Alex Bledsoe (author of the Tufa series, the Eddie LaCrosse novels, and so much more) for many years. The Tufa series features a great deal of music, both original to the series and culled from the musical archives of Bledsoe's life. In his book Gather Her Round, there is a pivotal moment where a woman steps up to a microphone with a guitar in her hand and channels one of the town's most vivid secrets from the ether, unfolding the entire song before a rapt audience who clearly understands that what she is singing is not just a song, but an absolute truth. Bledsoe wrote placeholder lyrics but was never happy with the way they told the secret ... so he asked us to give it a crack. We are honored to share this song not only with our fans but with the fans of the Tufa Series, who can now hear exactly how that pivotal moment sounds.

While Cass wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on the album, other band members contribute as well. Potrykus wrote “Hell,” while Janetsky wrote “Heart & Soul.” Cass and Janetsky wrote the father-and-son song “Wolf River Harbor” together. The Lucky Nows flesh out their own material in concert with some of the band members’ own songs and a few covers. 

“I have never had as much fun musically as I do with The Lucky Nows," Cass says. "We're already writing for our next CD, so we aren't going to be slowing down any time soon. We're going to enjoy this incredible ride for as long as it lasts, and take every opportunity that comes our way."

The upcoming Ark date means a lot to the band, and to Cass in particular: “My dad is a huge fan of acoustic music, so I've seen shows at The Ark (The RFD Boys, Josh White, Jr., etc.) from the time I was a little girl. I got my start playing The Ark open mic on Wednesdays when I was in college and law school at U of M, so every time I play The Ark, it's like coming home. The Ark is a pinnacle. If you've played The Ark, you've made it to a level that most musicians struggle and strive for, but never obtain. We are honored and humbled every time we step on The Ark's legendary stage.” 


Bob Needham is a freelance writer and the former arts & entertainment editor of The Ann Arbor News and AnnArbor.com.


The Luck Nows play at The Ark, 316 S. Main St., at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 31. Tickets are $15.

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“We are fortunate to live in Michigan's Tri-Cities area, which has become a magnet for musicians, so we got to choose from the absolute best players out there. We couldn't be happier with The Lucky Nows' lineup, and the deep and diverse range of music we write, produce and play together.”
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