Music: Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real’s New Album “Something Real” Melds Variety of Styles, Eras and Emotions
By Angie Bachara
When Lukas Nelson talks music, it’s not just about sound. “Music is like color,” says Nelson. “When I listen to the musicians who affected me when I was growing you, I take from the primary colors to find my foundation. Then I apply secondary colors and the music becomes more and more complex.”
The intricacy of the music that has been created by Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real on their new album, Something Real, is an amazing combination of sound, color and a wealth of their lifetime influences. With only their own footsteps left to follow in, Promise of the Real is taking their music further than ever before.
Building on a foundation they started in 2008, when Nelson and drummer Anthony LoGerfo met at a Neil Young concert and began development of Promise of the Real, the band is at a point where yesterday’s reminiscing and today’s urgency have been fused into one incredible collaboration.
When perusing these tracks that will prove to transcend time, listeners will pick up on Duane Allman, Waylon Jennings, Jimi Hendrix and more. Melody and lyrics tell a story, capture a feeling, and move listeners to emotionally react. The band will capture your ears and heart and you’ll grow to love frontman Nelson, bassist Corey McCormick, drummer Anthony LoGerfo, percussionist Tato Melgar and special guest guitarist (and Lukas’ brother) Micah Nelson even more.
“Surprise” is pulsing with life and takes you from smooth and mellow to jamming with the riffs. “Something Real” makes you want to travel, explore, and above everything find something truly real for your own life. Working through each track is a stroll through a range of emotional encounters with the past and present melded into one amazing album.
“Set Me Down on a Cloud” is a raw and edgy track exploring the loss of love. “If I lose my baby, / I’ll tell you where they can lay me. / Set me down on a cloud, with my soul turned inside-out.” Once you’ve had your insides stripped raw by loss of lover, family or friend, this feeling of loss and it’s required recovery that most will find easily relatable. Simple lyrics to plumb the depths of humanity’s emotion.
“There’s an emotional complexity in simplicity,” Nelson says. “Simplicity is never as simple as it seems. Sometimes, if you can hide the complexity inside the simplicity, you get a result that covers a lot of the spiritual spectrum.”
Nelson has been diligent about developing his songwriting, devoting a part of each day to new ideas. “Sometimes I’ll walk into a room and a new song just pops into my head, like a thought,” he says. “ Your brain is an antenna that picks up thoughts and energies. Every place has its own sound imprint. If you’re a musician, it’s your job to write down what you hear when that happens.”
The band has grown closer over the last eight years, having lived through more than 250 shows together, even touring recently with Neil Young. They’ve reached a point where playing together comes more easily and without much need to speak.
“We don’t really think about it too hard; it always just kind of works for us,” adds LoGerfo. “Because Lukas is the writer and we’re with him through the writing, we’re in the songs as they come together and we don’t really have to rehearse much. I always wanted to get to the level of playing where we’re at right now.”
Nelson’s dedication to his lyrics is equal to his dedication in commanding his guitar. His genius sound and capability allows him and the band to express powerful feelings, or as Nelson might put it, powerfully moving layers of color.
However you describe it, life is the engine that drives Nelson’s music. He sings passionately, to both communicate and to purge. The stories come from actual experience. Says Nelson, “Believe me, it’s all real.”
There is one cover song on Something Real that takes on a deeper color, exploring lost innocence and how that leads to a burden of knowledge. Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco” was once a call to the flower children to come west and join in the Summer of Love. This new version features Neil Young and Micah Nelson and lends a feeling of that bay area nostalgia to the album that the band must have felt while recording the album in San Francisco.
“I love that song,” Nelson reflects. “I’ve been hanging out in San Francisco, and it felt appropriate to belt this out on top of the Victorian mansion where we’ve been recording. If Scott McKenzie’s version was the morning sunrise, then this one is an evening sunset.”
Cowboy Hippie Surf Rock, as Nelson and Band call their genre, has reached its next phase of evolution. All who dive into Something Real, regardless of where in music history they feel most comfortable, will discover that Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real have already become a dulcet force for the ages.
Album: Something Real by Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, 2016