Lukas Nelson & The Promise of The Real was a band that always drifted in and out of my periphery, though I knew them in name only. The tie to Lukas Nelson’s father, Willie Nelson, brought on expectations of something in that vein, as well as the band’s recent collaboration with Neil Young on his album “The Monsanto Years,” another album I didn’t listen to. So when I pressed play on Lukas Nelson & The Promise of The Real’s “Something Real” I was blown away by what I heard: a straight-shot rock and roll record that pulls no punches.
The album is the third by the group, though the first since their introduction into a higher spotlight with Uncle Neil. Nelson seems to know this album will be the first of his that a lot of people listen to, and the band opens up with the aptly titled “Surprise” and proceeds to brand themselves to your eardrums with its razor-sharp sound.
“Surprise, you didn’t expect me did you?/ I’m climbing through your window and I only got time” howls Nelson over the wave of riffs from his brother and guitarist Micah Nelson in the chorus, his voice resonating like a bluesier Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden. Bassist Corey McCormick delivers a swelling bass line the band attaches to in-between the crashing chorus, to which percussionist Tato Melgar and drummer Anthony LoGerfo help texture with bouts of rhythm. The mixture of salty with the sweet is infectious and the band is firmly buried into your skull for the rest of the album.
The band’s sound has a simplicity to it that produces an instinctual urge to want to pump your fist and shout in the name of rock. The smile coming over your face as you listen to Micah’s blood-pumping solo should do. “I’ll Make Love To You Any Ol’ Time” is as sexy and forward as the title implies with the groove making it irresistible to grab the hips of your closest lover. There is complexity though, simmering underneath the simple elements of power chords and a full-throttle tempo, “Everything is Fake” exemplifying this with its delicate weaving of guitars that blast into the stratosphere, the solo being the best guitar part on the album. If it was easy to sound this good with no frills there would be a lot more music like this, but Nelson and Co. are in a league of their own.
Besides capturing some great music, “Something Real” also is all about capturing the band’s attitude. There is a tenacious, underdog streak in Nelson’s voice that blazes a path and leads his band straight into the world ahead. It was this hell-bent-on-doing-what-we-want worldview that certainly drew Neil Young to want to play with them, brothers-in-arms flipping the bird to the world. They team together for a bristling cover of Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco,” turning an anthem in the flower power movement to a pearl of rock music. Let’s also not forget he comes from the ilk of one of the original outlaws of music, Willie Nelson, a man who created his own radical sound in the Texas desert after the Nashville establishment tried to keep him straight-laced.
Give this album a listen and let Lukas Nelson & The Promise of The Real give you a clear picture of one of the best rock groups out there right now.