Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
Turn Off The News Build A Garden
It’s getting hard to know what Lukas Nelson’s best day-job is – and what his best moonlighting side-gig is too for that matter: Son of Willie Nelson, bandleader for Neil Young, “Authenticity Consultant” to Bradley Cooper (leading to soundtrack contributions and a role as on-stage musician all for the film A Star Is Born) and then – almost actually parenthetical to all of that – he’s a singer/songwriter and leader of the band Promise of The Real, steadily carving out solid albums based around his own compositions. He finds time to pop up, with his brother, on Willie’s records too (including the most recent) and brother Micah also has his own side-projects that sometimes involve Lukas.
And all of this has occurred across just the last five years. Phew!
Charmed life? Hard worker! Why not both…
At any rate, here we go with a new Promise of the Real album and if it isn’t quite a total slam-dunk there’s a warmness, mirth and merriment to it, and much to recommend it besides; great musicianship, some truly lovely songs and the continued development of a songwriting voice and vehicle that’s to be further encouraged. Watch this space, basically…
The similarities to Nelson senior are there, still, and always, of course – and Lukas sometimes seems to be writing from his old man’s point of view, singing about quitting the rat-race, buying a big ol bag of weed and all but watching the world burn. Other times, as on the title-track, his stoner-wisdom has a little more soul and gumption to it. And Sheryl Crow steps in to provide an Emmylou Harris-like turn on harmony vocals. Later (on Lotta Fun)Margo Price will provide a similar role.
Willie guests too. And he’s always a welcome presence – even a spirit-guide of sorts – but particularly lovely hearing from “Trigger” on the song Mystery. Maybe the highlight here. Nelson Junior is at his best when he doesn’t quite sound like his old man and channels a range of songwriting spirits – from Paul Simon and Tom Petty through to hints of Randy Newman’s wry smirk (Out in LA).
Sometimes the ragged glory of Promise of the Real is like a sophisticated Crazy Horse, other times you wish they’re really unwind and go full Allman Bros./jam-band styles. But there’s plenty of time left. And Build A Garden is the logical next step in the journey. Worth your time and there won’t be a long wait for more of slightly-the-same-but-different or whatever the next step might be.