LUKAS NELSON & THE PROMISE OF THE REAL – Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real (Fantasy)

Lukas NelsonI’m sure it’s true of daughters and mothers too, although, off the top of my head, I can’t think of a case to cite, but sons of famous singing fathers generally get a hard time of it, always finding themselves compared to dad even if the music sounds completely different. Think of Jakob Dylan, Harper Simon, Julian and Sean Lennon, Adam Cohen, Teddy Thompson, James McCartney. Some bow to the inevitable and channel their musical heritage down similar paths, such as Hank Williams Jr and Jr Jr while others just get on with it and do what they want to do and sound how they want to sound.

Lukas Nelson, son of country legend Willie, is a case in point. He plays Americana country, but not in the outlaw manner of the red headed stranger and, while there’s a definite hint of the old man to the sandpapery voice (most notably so on ‘Breath Of My Baby)’, it very much has its own quality.

Following on from his recent studio and stage stint with Neil Young for ‘The Monsanto Years’, he’s unveiling his new band on their self-titled debut (just to confuse things Promise Of The Real was also the title of the previous line up’s 2010 debut), there’s none of his father’s jazz inclinations, although, as the organ-backed slow march tempo seven-minute opener ‘Set Me Down On A Cloud’ reveals, a song about the death of a friend’s child, there is gospel.

And, with ‘Die Alone’, some solid chugging boogie while ‘Fool Me Once’ turns its attention to a lazy Delaney & Bonnie country blues jug shuffle. Indeed, there’s plenty of stylistic diversity here, albeit all anchored to a solid country core. ‘Just Outside ‘of Austin is an acoustic guitar and piano ballad that is, frankly, ascloseasthis to Glen Campbell’s ‘Gentle On My Mind’ (Campbell’s influence that also spilling into ‘Runnin’ Shine’), ‘Carolina’ a margherita-sipper poured from Jimmy Buffett’s bar, ‘Four Letter Word’ a goodtime echo of Lee Hazelwood and, perhaps inevitably, shades of Neil Young on the scuzzy ‘High Times’. Album closer ‘If I Started Over’ even takes on the crooner classics sound of The Platters, Brook Benton and Johnny Ray in way that suggests Willie might not have sole family propriety over celebrating the genre.

It’s a damn fine album with some damn fine songs, the eight minute epic ‘Forget About Georgia’ with its resonator and echoes of The Band standing alongside the album opener among the highlights. To which list you can also add the six-minute funky old school R&B–fuelled swagger of ‘Find Yourself’ that features back-ups by one Stefani Germanotta. Of course, she’s rather better known as Lady Gaga, but, just like the family name, she’s part of the background details, not the story itself. Lukas is perfectly capable of telling that himself.

Mike Davies

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‘Find Yourself’ – live: