Complex country-rock delivered sincerely
Finding movement after a time of being still, Lukas Nelson and the band Promise of the Real deliver new music with sincerity and newfound connectivity between human interaction in A Few Stars Apart. Nelson emerges after a year of silence since Naked Garden. But his newest concoction—A Few Stars Apart—explores the navigation to find connectivity between family, friends and one’s own heart. Created with Promise of the Real, who is often borrowed by Neil Young for his live shows, this album conveys an emotional response from Nelson regarding the atypical year people have all endured.
Recorded at Nashville’s RCA Studio A, A Few Stars Apart travels to boundaries of joy, stillness, sorrow and each’s eventual fate. The band manifested their album on an eight-track tape machine, where Nelson says on the band’s website in an interview: “It’s a testament to the skill of Promise of the Real, and Dave [Cobb], who actually played with us a lot, that we were able to get great takes. Everybody felt very inspired the whole time.”
“Perennial Bloom (Back To You)” exudes this feeling of stillness from the past year, as Nelson and the Promise of the Real belt a country-rock ode with gritty and clever riffs and rhythm. Nelson’s depth-defying vocals climb and fall to unexpected pitches, keeping people alert in listening but humble in the spirit of the song itself.
The album’s title track, “A Few Stars Apart,” is a heartfelt ode with a melancholic yet uplifting piano melody subdued by a complacent organ. Dedicated to the band’s dear friend Nancy, Nelson felt as if her spirit was writing the lyrics with him. “We’re just a few stars apart/ every night you can see my heart/ shining like a diamond in the sky.” This song is about closeness, togetherness and being with those you love. It is a keen reminder of how others might affect your life, not to mention a very well-written and composed gem on this album.
Nelson and the band’s music contain natural, compassionate tones that express deep sincerity within each count of the album. Some tracks verge on spiritual journeys, like “Leave ’em Behind.” Lyrics like, “If you really love yourself, you’ve got to leave em behind” express a connection to one’s own self, a rare expression of humility in modern music. Tracks like this and “Hand Me A Light” wade in soundwaves of this sincerity with eclectic musical style. Promise of the Real’s Logan Metz eases in and out of each track with keyboards, lap steel or harmonica to transition each verse smoothly.
Songs like “Smile” and “Giving You Away” are a bit derived but offer the same simplicity with layered complexities as the rest of the album. Lyrically, they are superb, however, sonically, they are a bit repetitive of other country-rock styles.
The offspring of infamous music legend Willie Nelson is not bogged down by his father’s name but rather offers a similar simplicity to his music. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real shine bright with their newest and most humble endeavor, A Few Stars Apart. But beneath their simple songs are underlying complexities that make up the body of this 11-track treasure.