Record Of The Week # 68

June 17, 2019

Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real – Turn Off The Radio (Build A Garden)

I remember thinking, when writing about his 2017 blistering release, that I hoped he could shake off being a Country legend’s son and get the recognition he deserved. Two years on I think we can safely say he’s emerged from that shadow: he’s co-written or produced much of the Number 1 soundtrack album A Star Is Born, continued to tour, often headlining, and then moving into 2019 he’s appeared at the UK’s major annual country music event C2C and later this month he treads the boards at the world’s largest music festival – Glastonbury. 

Nelson’s talents include being a consummate tunesmith, often across several genres, and guitar playing that can switch between incendiary riffs to complicated improvisations. Also having the complement of a band that hangs together with agility and polish adds to his sound. (Whether it matters nowadays in our genre fluid world) I have to say Turn Off The News (Build A Garden) is not Country but it’s just about Americana-lite.

 “Bad Case” is pure hook laden pop rock with an infectious chorus; a seductive start to affairs. “Mystery” is my album highlight as slide guitar gives a distinct flavour along with reverb bass. The words tells his intended of his enigmatic behaviour. I defy Abba fans at the start of “Something Real” not to sing “My, my. At Waterloo Napoleon did surrender”. When the intro is over we get some routine yet energetic rock n’ roll. “Where Does Love Go” is redolent of the Traveling Wilburys. After the Jeff Lynne intro we have Nelson trying to be Roy Orbison. In fact this type of pop rock presented by heavyweight and credible musicians seems to be a benchmark for comparison.

There are several guest appearances that seem to add little. One such is Sheryl Crow on the title track’s background vocals. This is probably the strongest tune here and its message is clear. In fairness it’s not too preachy other than telling you “I believe that every heart is kind”. I can imagine a lot of folk loving the sentiment (as I did). Elsewhere with the predictability that it will be 12 O’Clock at least twice a day Willie turns up on a couple of tracks and apparently so does Margo Price, Kesha, Neil Young and Shooter Jennings: I suggest you’ll not detect them without the liner notes.

We sign off with “Stars Made Of You”. An upbeat romantic love song but this time with 60s pop strings and a drum beat that slopes along with flat hollow slaps. An organ plays in the background before some deft guitar licks compete with this sensational drum rhythm.

If he planned to be positive then the album oozes a laid back unhurried and stress free vibe. It truly is a windows down Summer record as Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour was. One of the unique things about his previous release was his mastery of several genres and styles such that each track was simply exceptional. Additionally the lyrics seemed to have more to say. This is a less diverse collection of sounds with some less memorable tracks. With that some of my wonderment has been lost. However this is still an accomplished album that you’ll have on repeat. I for one won’t complain when it clutters up the end of year lists. The boy is unstoppable now.

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