April 22, 2024

Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real – “Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real” – Good but could have been so much better

FANTASY RECORDS           25th August, 2017

Big chances come along rarely. Once you’ve had them, you’ve got to keep the momentum yourself. Lukas Nelson has two claims to fame:

Lukas is the son of legendary country singer Willie Nelson. A great writer of astonishingly short songs that capture one aspect of a feeling perfectly and a distinctive guitar player to boot.

Promise Of The Real have been backing Neil Young for a couple of years and asked to sustain jamming workouts anything up to twenty minutes long. I caught them last year and they were a very decent band, if not the best that Young has had.

Their fourth album shows Lukas’ voice is undoubtedly related to his Dad’s and the playing is solid. Problem is it only occasionally stands out from a run of the mill Nashville album. Cutesy one idea songs like Fool Me Once are an old standby of stars of the Grand Ol’ Opry. Just like Four Letter Word – “out here in the country, ‘forever’ is a four letter word”.

This is the first since the last Neil Young tour and, much as Bruce Hornsby’s ticket sales shot up after he’d been in the Grateful Dead, this album should have ripped the roof off, pampered to the Neil fans and earned a new audience.

Just Outside Of Austin is a strange one. Borrowing heavily on Glen Campbell’s Gentle On My Mind, it switches to a lovely falsetto chorus and hymns smoking dope out in the desert and dreaming of his girl. A solo from Willie Nelson and his battered guitar, Trigger, wanders in like a dash of Stephane Grapelli playing twenties jazz. Strange, sweet, nice. Elsewhere, honky-tonking country bar songs pass by pleasantly but unremarkably. On Set Me Down On A Cloud, I hear the slow lead guitar, crashing thump they learnt from Neil Young but within a minute, we’ve dropped into a smooth country-rock plodder, occasionally returning to the bash for the chorus. Mind you, Lukas is channelling his Dad’s vocal on this one and the first guitar solo is in his style, too – nicely slow and phrased simply. The second is good and chewy, in Lukas’ own guitar voice. A story-song about making illicit moonshine and living outside the law has some interest, in its lilting tune and occasional high-flying vocal.

My ears prick up for Find Yourself, when the vocal reminds me of Danny Wilson (of the Champions Of The World). The song stomps along nicely, with some nice seventies touches in a rock-reggae style and Lady Gaga (yes, honest) is well used. Breath Of My Baby stands out as another where Lukas’ voice acquires the very personal tones of Willie again. The song is pleasantly simple in concept, allowing exploration of that single picture and If I Started Over does the same, in a country waltz. Only Forget About Georgia gets an extended instrumental workout that highlights the strengths of the guitar work here.

Overall, though, this is merely a good country album with a spot of filler, occasionally very good tracks but no more than make an EP. With classier material it could have been so much more.

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