Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real release new music in 'A Few Stars Apart'
Austin360 On The Record is a weekly roundup of new, recent and upcoming releases by local and Austin-associated recording artists.
Out this week
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, “A Few Stars Apart” (Fantasy). Now 32, Willie Nelson’s second-youngest child (brother Micah is a year or so behind him) has been making records with his band Promise of the Real for more than a decade. 2017’s self-titled album and 2019’s “Turn Off the News (Build a Garden)” were breakthroughs both creatively and commercially, making inroads on the country charts and earning the band a 2018 appearance on the “Austin City Limits” TV show. Much of the group’s draw has been its versatility; their music has drawn from rock & roll energy, jam-band rhythms, old-school soul and folk balladry as well as the deep country roots of the Nelson family tree.
As such, “A Few Stars Apart” largely finds Lukas digging back toward those roots. It’s the closest thing to a pure country record that he’s made to date, likely due at least in part to him having spent much of the pandemic with family at his father’s ranch west of Austin. Lukas spent much of his youth there and in Hawaii, before forming Promise of the Real in Los Angeles. A Texas hill country vibe permeates tracks such as the opening waltz “We’ll Be Alright,” the sweetly soulful “Giving You Away” and the lovelorn ballad “Hand Me a Light” (which features co-writer Rina Ford on duet vocals).
Working with ace producer Dave Cobb at Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A, Lukas and his bandmates — multi-instrumentalist Logan Metz, bassist Corey McCormick, drummer Anthony LoGerfo and percussionist Tato Melgar — went for a richly organic sound that feels like it was recorded to analog tape, because it was. They’re less pushing the envelope on “A Few Stars Apart” than settling into a deeply comfortable groove.
The band picks up the pace on several tracks, including the early single “Perennial Bloom (Back to You)” and the instantly catchy “Wildest Dreams,” which comes on like a classic Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers track that culminates in a chorus rife with internal rhymes: “Hell yes I remember your dress, and I remember the sunset, and all of the rest of the memories you gave me, tryin’ to save me.” A stark counterpart is the exquisite piano-and-organ-centered title track, written for a departed friend to whom the album is dedicated.
Like his father, Lukas has spent most of his life on the road (again) — but with “A Few Stars Apart,” he seems to be drawing strength from another of his father’s best songs, “Still is Still Moving to Me.” During the pandemic, “I was forced to look at all the turbulence I had created by being away and not sitting still with myself for years and years,” Lukes writes in the press bio accompanying the album. “I think I finally decided not to run from who I am, and who I am destined to be. First and foremost, that’s a songwriter.”
Album-signing in-store June 11 at noon at Waterloo Records; playing June 26 at Antone's. Here's the video for "Perennial Bloom (Back to You)":
Choctaw Wildfire, “Uh-Huh.” The latest from singer-songwriter Charlie Pierce’s band often delves into sociopolitical territory. The gentle piano anthem “Survive” views politics from a personal lens: “I’m just trying to find the light, to carry me through these difficult times.” Pierce makes clear in the video for the NOLA-jazz- tinged “Dingleberry Pie” that it was a kiss-off to Donald Trump. On “Trouble,” foreboding horns accent a dive into the darker depths of the human condition. Release show June 11 at Sagebrush. Here’s the lyric video for “Trouble”:
Recently released EPs
Jade Bird, “RCA Studio A Sessions." Released in April, this three-song teaser to a full album coming in August from the recent Austin transplant begins with a lovely acoustic cover of Radiohead’s “Black Star” performed as a duet with her guitarist Luke Prosser (nodding to the duet version Gillian Welch & David Rawlings did years ago). Bird also tackles the Bee Gees classic “To Love Somebody” before closing with a solo-piano rendition of “Something American,” the title track to her 2017 debut EP. Taping “Austin City Limits” TV show June 14 (will be livestreamed on the ACL-TV website). Here’s the in-studio video for “Black Star”:
Timothy Howls, “The Rubble.” Released in May, this six-song set is the solo debut of Tim Lopez, a member of Grammy-nominated Chicago rockers the Plain White T’s who recently relocated to Austin. Lopez mixes rockers such as the angular “Lightning From the Blue Sky” and buoyant “We Love and Do It Well” with more contemplative tracks such as the acoustic-guitar-driven title track and the piano-based ballad “Fire,” which features harmonies from indie duo Lucius. Lopez worked with producers Adrian Quesada (of Black Pumas) and Sam Kearney on the EP, with Spoon’s Jim Eno handling mixes. Release show June 13 at 3Ten. Here’s the track “Lightning From the Blue Sky”:
Anastasia Hera, “This Is Anastasia.” Working with producer-composer Ty on da Track, Austin native Hera mixes elements of hip-hop, soul, jazz, pop, R&B and more on this six-song set released in May. Here’s the opening track, “Ceiling”:
JUNE 15: Magna Carda, “To the Good People”
JUNE 18: Sam Pace & the Gilded Grit, self-titled, release show June 18 at Central Machine Works
JUNE 18: Leslie Beia, “Wallflower,” release show June 19 at Far Out Lounge
JULY 2: Mr. Linen, “Stay Cool”
JULY 9: Flatlanders, “Treasure of Love” (Thirty Tigers)
JULY 9: Pat Byrne, “Into the Light,” album-launch show June 26 at Saxon Pub
JULY 9: Giovanni Carnuccio III, “A Matter of Time”
JULY 16: Danilo, “All I Want” EP, release show July 17 at Far Out Lounge
JULY 17: Roky Erickson tribute album, “May the Circle Remain Unbroken” (Light in the Attic)
JULY 17: Christine Renner, “Heartbreaker” EP
JULY 23: Robert Harrison, “Watching the Kid Come Back”
JULY 23: Molly Burch, “Romantic Images” (Captured Tracks)
JULY 23: Dallas Burrow, self-titled
JULY 30: Nobody’s Girl, self-titled (Lucky Hound)
AUG. 13: Jade Bird, “Different Kinds of Light” (Glassnote)
AUG. 20: James McMurtry, “The Horses and the Hounds” (New West)
AUG. 27: Shinyribs, “Late Night TV Gold”
AUG. 27: Bob Schneider, “In a Room Full of Blood With a Sleeping Tiger”
AUG. 27: Altin Sencalar, “Reconnected” (Next Level)
AUG. 27: Suzanne Santo, “Yard Sale”