Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real | Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real | Rating: 9/11
One gets the impression that – at some point during his young, but accomplished 28 years – Lukas Nelson made himself a promise to dig a little deeper and explore where the seams of rock and his roots truly do and neatly affix to one another. The likes of Levon Helm to Crosby, Stills & Nash linger and being the son of living legend Willie Nelson can easily be a weight upon artistic aspirations, but Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real have managed to shrug that weight aside and fly their own fine course of Americana country soul on Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real.
The 12 songs make their mark for reasons that range from pace to performance to preciousness. Yes, preciousness because with an openhearted – if not classic country – approach to crafting more emotionally vivid lyrics, songs like “Just Outside of Austin,” “Runnin’ Shine” (yep, a song about an old school family business) and “Fool Me Once” with its Johnny Cash call back sound less like idealized imagery and more like slices of Nelson’s true self sketched and fleshed out for soulful consumption. “Find Yourself” with Lady Gaga is its own form of lightning in bottle, so Southern rock and blues deep with emotion scratching beneath the surface of the combined restraint of their delivery while the band’s feel for a tightly wound groove provides a righteous foundation. All of it so measured and complimentary that every song feels relative to the next.
Enlisted for layers of harmony and depth, the ladies of Lucius lend their voices to half of the record and “Set Me Down On a Cloud” proves the hell of a thing that it is when the right vocal touch can gently elevate an already great song to the level of “Hell yeah.” and “Amen.” Conscious creative moves such as that are why this is Nelson’s most focused and self-realized album, as graceful in its modern production as it is sonically reverent of the music that Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real carry a torch for and, with that in mind, you would be well-served to approach it with headphones.