LUKAS NELSON & Promise of The Real

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Prior to 2017, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real were primarily heard in reflection of the legends they’ve supported — namely, Neil Young, who hired the group as his backing band for his 2015 LP The Monsanto Years, and Lukas‘ father Willie, who has taken his son out on the road on more than one occasion. All this means Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real, the 2017 album that is also their leap to the semi-majors, marks the first opportunity many audiences have to properly assess the band on their own terms. Appropriately, Nelson & Promise of the Real decide to show a little of everything they can do on this elegantly lazy 12-track album. “Set me Down on a Cloud” sets the tone, indicating this album will be something of a spacy trip, but its Americana psychedelia works as a keynote because it suggests Promise of the Real embrace the notion of ever-expanding possibilities. They immediately bring the proceedings back to earth with “Die Alone,” one of a few funky blues-rockers here, but since they’ve opened the door to a world outside of Texas, that specter hangs over the album even when they’re doing songs suited for beer joints. At times, Promise of the Real can’t help but recall Willie Nelson, and not just because Willie plays guitar on “Just Outside of Austin,” a gently rolling acoustic number. Promise of the Real also favor the places where country, folk, rock, and blues intersect, while also realizing that it’s necessary to find an idiosyncratic voice through familiar elements. That’s precisely what they do here, giving open-road rockers, R&B workouts, starlit cowboy tunes, breezy beach songs, and country laments a personal bent. It’s a record where Lady Gaga can join in for a six-minute slow-burner styled after prime Faces (“Find Yourself”) and feel at home because this is a place where anybody is invited just as long as they share the same vibe. And, as a listener, if you happen to share that vibe, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real is a pure pleasure.