It’s pretty clear that Lukas Nelson has inherited some traits from his dad. One is the ability to write a good song. And let’s face it, if you’re going to learn the craft of songwriting, Willie Nelson is as good a teacher as there is. Another inherited trait is the ability to include a variety of styles. Yes, Willie Nelson is mostly known as a country artist, but he has also delved into blues, standards, and a variety of other genres, including a collaboration with Supersuckers. Likewise, Lukas is pretty fluid when it comes to adapting to different styles.
A Few Stars Apart is the new album from Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real. It’s the result of Nelson being with his family in Texas during the pandemic, and the band’s response to finding a connection with people during a time when everyone was isolated. It was recorded live on eight-track tape over three days in Nashville and produced by Dave Cobb. Of his time with his family, Nelson said, “As terrible as the pandemic has been in so many ways, for my inner peace, I was able to take a lot of good from this time. I was able to pause and reflect.” That time for reflection helped Nelson and the band produce a good album full of contemplation.
The album begins with the country ballad “We’ll Be Alright”. Between the strumming on the acoustic guitar and the vocals, it’s hard not to notice the similarity to his dad and Kris Kristofferson in this one. It has the deliberate melody and storytelling quality of songs like “Loving Her Was Easier”. “Leave ’em Behind” is another song fitting the country/Americana vibe, especially with the banjo and the strings that give the song some depth and texture. Meanwhile, the rhythm has a sort of jazzy feel like you might hear in a song by the Wood Brothers.
From there, the album moves into “Perennial Bloom (Back to You)”. Like a fair amount of his songs, this one straddles the line between Americana and classic rock. The guitar won’t blow out your ears, but it is turned up a little more than in other songs and gives the song a distinct classic rock sound. “Throwin’ Away Your Love” is yet another changeup on this album. Like the Muscle Shoals sound, this one resides at the intersection of soul and Southern rock. The guitar lends a little twang while the organ gives a soulful feel to the song.
A Few Stars Apart by Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real is further evidence that Nelson is a musical chameleon. The band moves fluidly from one sound to another so you don’t really know what’s coming next. You only know it will be good, and it’s likely to put a smile on your face.