The Real Deal
I first reviewed Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real in 2011, smitten then by their sound – the clear Nelson vocal [this just cannot be ignored] and the rock pedigree, often most significant in the guitar work. And the references to smoking dope: explicit, most often, or implied, never as a furtive reference but more as a metaphor for living a chilled and seemingly content life, at least musically speaking.
The musically speaking side of a fulfilled life would probably be exemplified in Lukas and the band touring and recording with Neil Young, and I was lucky enough to see them together at the O2 in London when last here.
This album continues with the ingredients with which it all started back in 2011. Opener Sit Me Down on a Cloud is a chugging ballad of sorts, a choir, provided by Lucius, adding some swell to the simplicity of the song, brash guitar work injecting volume here and there, and then a closing guitar solo over Lucius’ wordless chorus repetitions that rails wonderfully. Next Die Alone comes along with another chug of a rhythm, organ bursts, and Lukas’ distinctive timbre of a voice stamping itself. This especially, but also the previous, has the echo of the Rolling Stones in its punchiness.
Third Fool Me Once has a jug-band sound, think Lovin’ Spoonful/John Sebastian as well as Mungo Jerry, with Lucius again on backing vocals. Fourth Just Outside of Austin is a clear echo of a Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb collaboration, a sweet country-pop waltz of a song, with a sweetly romantic line in its storytelling and Willie providing signature guitar.
Fifth brings a shift up a gear – smoothly so – with a honky-tonk of a song Carolina and Lady Gaga providing the first of her two vocal contributions, and the song’s line I’m gonna roll me up a number, wait naked in bed, that chilled-with-weed narrative thread wafting through. The other Gaga assist is on seventh Find Yourself, one of the strongest songs in this fine collection. Germanotta’s soulful vocal adds its own contributing echo to the sound of Delaney & Bonnie on this, though Nelson’s timbre occupies its own distinctiveness in that notion [though at times rising to an Edgar Winter’s pitch of a growl] and the guitar is a spunky highlight in the mix.
There are other shades and signatures – the rock and rhyme-fest of High Times; the beautiful Forget About Georgia – but the core is a gospel-tinged southern country rock ensemble of joyous musical lineage and individual stamping that I look forward to enjoying for many years to come.