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Lukas Nelson needs to be heard

El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, November 16, 2021

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Although Lukas Nelson mentioned early on how he was struggling with losing his voice - after Promise of the Real's 49-date tour - he later noted his vocals had finally stabilized. However, what Nelson felt, could not be heard by the audience. He sounded great from the start (appropriately enough, with one called "Start to Go"), all the way to the end of this thoroughly enjoyable concert.

Nelson may never get away from his relationship to a famous, iconic father (Willie Nelson), but he proved this evening how he deserves to be appreciated on his own merits alone. Yes, his voice is similar to his dad's, and when he plays acoustic guitar, it's in a Willie-like style.

However, he's also a smart and emotive songwriter. (This apple didn't fall too far from the tree). One called "Leave 'em Behind" empathetically describes a friend who was in an abusive relationship, while "Just Outside of Austin" speaks positively about family values.

With "More Than We Can Handle," Nelson puts life's struggles into Biblical terms with how God won't give us more than we can handle.

Best of all, though, was ("Forget About) Georgia." It describes how, every time Nelson sang "Georgia On My Mind" with his father's family band, he was stingingly reminded nightly about a girl he had recently broken up with named Georgia. In this smartly sad song, he even cries out to Ray Charles, who famously sang this favorite Georgia song, "So I say Ray, let me forget about Georgia." In it, Nelson weaves in personal experiences (with this girl and with his father) along with references to another popular Georgia-based song. It's brilliant in so many ways. Early in the song, Nelson admits, "And then when she told me her name, I knew I would die slowly."

It's so heartbreakingly personal. As difficult as this breakup was for Nelson, we can all be thankful he didn't completely forget about it. It led to his best song.

Hearing Nelson's band, Promise of the Real, perform live, it's easy to recognize why Neil Young has utilized this group as his backing band. In addition to Nelson's bluesy electric guitar solos, his drummer, pianist and bassist provide tight, soulful collaborative instrumentation.

Struggle as he may have, Lukas Nelson is a voice that needs to be heard.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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