The PFAC Board of Advisors invites to our 7th annual ARTINI
Area mixologists compete to create inspired libations using ingredients made in Virginia. Your votes choose the winner!
Tickets are $60 ($75 after Feb 23rd)
Includes drink tastings and food pairings
VIP Sponsorships are $110 ($135 after Feb 23rd)
For Tickets: (757) 596-8175
Doors open at 8pm – Show starts at 9pm
The way Corey Smith sees it, he owes a debt to his fans. And it’s one he is determined to repay with his 10th album, While the Gettin’ Is Good. The project, released on Sugar Hill Records, marks the first time that the singer-songwriter, a wildly popular touring artist who has produced all of his past efforts, has turned over the reins to a bona fide country music producer in Keith Stegall. The result is Smith’s most ambitious record yet, as well as a return on the investment made by the fans who have supported him since his first album in 2003.
“A lot of start-up acts are using fan-funded programs to finance their record. That’s what my whole career has been: Kickstarter before Kickstarter. When my fans show up and buy a ticket and a t-shirt, they’re investing in what I’m doing,” says Corey. “It’s my responsibility to invest it wisely and give them the best album I can. That’s what led me to While the Gettin’ Is Good.”
It’s also what led him to Stegall, who has produced such radio heavyweights as Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band. It was the producer’s track record, country-music experience and easy-going nature that convinced Corey that he was the man to refine his signature acoustic sound. “Keith knows how to make country records,” he says, “but I wanted to make my kind of country record and he understood that immediately. He simply wanted to get us comfortable in a studio environment so we could do what we do onstage every night. For me, it was very liberating to be able to focus solely on performing and not be burdened by a lot of the decision-making and drilling down that goes into producing. It was the first time I was able to go into the studio and focus on what I do best. Keith was there to handle the rest.”
A collection of 12 songs, While the Gettin’ Is Good was written entirely by Corey. As such, it’s a deeply personal album, one that explores themes of love, hometown pride and even personal discovery. A close relative inspired one of the record’s highlights, “Bend,” about learning how to adapt to what life throws at you.
“I wrote ‘Bend’ about a family member who was struggling with issues and I realized through writing this song that I was also talking about myself at the same time,” says Corey, who scored a Top 20 album with The Broken Record in 2011. “So that song really hits home.”
Still, the album stands as the Jefferson, Georgia, native’s most upbeat. Especially on the nostalgic “Pride,” a bouncing look back at Corey’s high school days, from pep rallies to game day. His children attend the same school he did and together they often attend high-school football games, where the one-time social studies teacher sees friendly faces from his past.
“I remember sitting up in the stands going, ‘Man, this is so cool.’ I’m so glad we decided to stay here and let my kids be a part of this tradition,” he says. “‘Pride’ summarizes who I am and even how my career has developed.”
Likewise, album opener “Don’t Mind” coasts along with a New Orleans vibe, full of fiddle and clarinet. A fun, happy song, it sets the tone for the record and pays tribute to the things we all gladly bear when we’re in love. It also epitomizes Corey’s current worldview.
“I have a 2006 truck that runs great, so I don’t need a new truck. I don’t have much time to get on a big lake, so I don’t need a bass boat. I could have bought some really cool stuff with the money that I spent on this record, but I didn’t, because I’m happy,” he says. “It’s a privilege to be able to do something like this, finance it myself and not have anyone telling me how my music needs to sound.”
Nonetheless, Corey has hit on the perfect song for today’s country radio: the approachable ballad “Taking the Edge Off.” It’s a road-weary travelogue, like Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” or Zac Brown Band’s “Colder Weather,” about the loneliness of touring and how people who travel combat such feelings.
“It captures a certain mood that we go through, especially in the winter. It’s really a grind, it gets cold and lonely, and you’re taking the edge off with a drink,” he admits. “I remember being in Omaha and it was cold as hell. I worked on that tune throughout the day and night there and every time I hear it, I am transported back to that time.”
Now, however, Corey is focused squarely on the future. As the new album title suggests, he’s ready to make a determined grab at country’s brass ring while the gettin’ is good. And with Keith Stegall and Sugar Hill Records behind him, the gettin’ has never been better. As the perseverant Corey is fond of saying, “There is more than one way to skin a cat in country music.”
“I always dreamed of being able to make a record like this. I wanted to explore all the possibilities of a song and work with a producer who was among the best and who could teach me,” he says. “What makes me different is that I write all these songs, and I write them from the heart. I’ve lived them.”
Which is exactly why his fans are willing to go along for the ride and invest so much in an artist who speaks to their way of life. To Corey, While the Gettin’ Is Good is his way of opening up his heart, along with his wallet, and paying them back.
“I’m going to take the goodwill they’ve given me and continually invest it into making better and better records that reflect who I am and my vision,” he says. “They’ve entrusted me with a lot, so I’m trying to be the best steward I can be.”
Every King & Commoner
Every King & Commoner® (EK&C) is a multi- genre musical group established in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia (est. 2016). Band members include (Left to Right), Cody Christian (Lead Vocals, Guitar, Songwriter, Booking), Ben Mekkes (Piano, Keys, Synths, Drums, Production Manager), and Andrew Frech (Bass, Guitar, Pads, Social Media Manager, Head of Finance).
EK&C is known for their diverse sound, creative musicality and raw/energetic performances. Being an effective three piece has created many opportunities for the group and has allowed them to travel and play many different stages as well as open for groups like Welshly Arms, Mac Powell and Matthew West.
Their debut single, Barabbas, was performed by Cody at the Immerse Conference 2016 in Nashville, TN, causing an eruption in crowd response, capturing the attention of industry panel judges. Cody’s vocal intertwined with the musical aptitude and creativity of Ben and Andrew make their songs come alive on stage. “This is an effective song that walks the line between Biblical and personal. Pretty haunting too. Perfect for the singer’s rough voice. I really like the organic sound of this band, and the singer is very believable and commercial.”
The Irish Drinking Band
Mixes rock, bluegrass and energetic Irish drinking songs with lightening fast fiddle, soaring guitar, driving drums and grooving bass!
Cumasgaigh School Irish Dance
An amazing group and solo performances by Irish dancers ranging from beginners, all the way to regional and national champions.
Full-service bar and great food will be available for purchase!
Proud to be firmly installed in the new-funk movement, KUNG FU is quickly popularizing their unique sonic contribution, blurring the line between intense electro-fusion, and blistering dance arrangements. Making fusion music “cool” again, the band draws on influences such as early Headhunters and Weather Report, and merges those ideas with a contemporary EDM informed sensibility. Imagine 70’s funk-fusion meets a modern dance party!
Although the ensemble cast enjoys a seasoned pedigree that reads like a late-night summer festival all-star jam, this fledgling “nu-sion” project is growing a unique and rabid following by commanding audiences at theaters, clubs, and major national festivals since 2012.
The powerhouse quintet’s live show has been described by critics and fans alike as “lethal funk”, “explosive”, “jaw dropping”, and “musically mesmerizing”. For the uninitiated, the experience is typically shocking yet the focus is simple: just sit back and enjoy the ride!
Kung Fu Features:
Tim Palmieri (guitar & vocals)
Robert Somerville (tenor sax & vocals)
Beau Sasser (keyboards & vocals)
Chris DeAngelis (bass guitar & vocals)
Adrian Tramontano (drums/percussion)
Singer-songwriter Matisyahu has been on journey inward for more than a decade. The journey has been private and public. The journey has at times been explicitly external, even while being driven by internal change. Now nearly thirteen years after the release of his first studio record, Matisyahu and his band have done something unmatched in his past repertoire; they have crafted that journey into a musically thematic eight song movement.
The band features longtime guitarist Aaron Dugan, Dub Trio bassist and drummer Stu Brooks and Joe Tomino, and keyboard virtuoso BigYuki — and the journey starts with them. The band improvised for hours in the studio with Matisyahu watching on as an admirer without singing a single lyric. Out of the improvisations grew melodic themes, rhythmic peaks and valleys, blissful and proto-song guitar passages, deep dub meditations and ultimately an inspired instrumental record until itself. Only once the band had crafted this musical narrative, did Matisyahu begin to work on a lyrical narrative of his own — a lyrical narrative that is simultaneously informed and integrated with the music yet driven by Matisyahu’s own personal journey. The result is Undercurrent, Matisyahu’s sixth studio album.
The record is musically Matisyahu’s most courageous release to date and lyrically his most vulnerable.
The courage in the music comes from trust. Trust in the band. And only in the band. There are no post-production bells and whistles or litany of special guests on Undercurrent. On the opening track, “Step Out into the Light” the band lays out a repetitive minimalist verse section that anchors the listener in a near meditative loop only to open up into a gorgeous set of chord changes that makes the chorus feel revelatory, as if the listener has earned this release, and can achieve the song-title’s call to action.
By the record’s third track, “Coming Up Empty” the band has established melodic themes that will be called upon or re-harmonized later in the record, and just two songs in, it is clear that these musicians are road-tested, brave-song-crafters, with tens-of-thousands of hours of playing together embedded in their muscles and fortified in their bones.
The vulnerability in the lyrics comes from acceptance. Acceptance in uncertainly. Acceptance in the actions of one’s younger self and acceptance that while the future may be uncertain, having the courage to trust gives us all the best chance at meaningful relationships. It’s a lyrical reframing of the Jewish philosophical differences between emunah (faith) and bitachon (trust). Faith, the constant, and trust the immediate. Matisyahu sets the stage for this conceptually on the record’s opening track, but he digs in internally on the authoritative plea in the chorus of “Back to the Old,” [I’m giving up, I’m giving in / All I got is what’s right in front of me / Is the people that I see…]. He projects it outwardly through questioning in “Forest of Faith,” [What’s a man got to do, Oh! / To get through to you?] And finally works towards acceptance on the guitar-driven gem “Headright, [And I know feelings come and go / How should hold on, should I let go].
These forces direct the journey of Undercurrent, and as the record progresses the music begins to open up into full band improvisations like a relationship becoming more trusting, willing to take chances, knowing there’s acceptance in the process. A stunning example of this is on the record’s fifth track “Tell Me.” If you stop the song at the three-and-a-half-minute mark, you have a great reggae-tinged pop tune that promises to make a hit radio single. The track however continues for another six-and-half-minutes, beginning with a beautifully re-harmonized keyboard reference to the song’s opening wordless vocal melody. From there the entire band begins to improvise. Each player speaking briefly but with purpose, adding slowly and deliberately to the conversation. Drums and bass falling in and out. Guitar and keyboards calling back and forth to each other. The listener can almost intuit the personalities of each musician. The musical conversation continues to build, each band member adding to the improvisation without playing on top of one another. Trust and respect. This is truly Matisyahu the band. Matisyahu the singer is patiently waiting for the band to direct the journey, and he joins back in with a near whisper as the rhythm section finds that incomparable dub groove Brooks and Tomino are famous for.
The level of interplay between Matisyahu and his band mates on Undercurrent is unquestionable and requires multiple listens. Each repetition of a song reveals a guitar line from Dugan that elevates a vocal melody that only 15 years of experience together can achieve. Keyboard patterns from Yuki unrealized in a previous listen connect one song to another and the full band improvisations that climax with an impressive exploratory section on the record’s final track “Driftin'” achieve the rare feat of capturing a band’s live potential on a studio album.
Ultimately, Undercurrent, is a fully realized concept album crafted by a band-of-brothers who have learned to hold a conversation that is both comforting and challenging at the same time. It plays like a revelatory session with a great psychotherapist.
Like someone watching an ocean wave move chaotically towards the shore unaware of the undercurrent pulling mightily back in the opposite direction, Matisyahu and his band have achieved a musical retelling of the Matisyahu story that explores the forces within that inspire us all, challenge us all, break us down, lift us up, and yet are rarely obvious to the outside observer.
Oh my God, look what the cat dragged in!
It’s the moves, spandex, and hair metal from the 80’s, performed by the only band manly enough to wear more makeup than your mom. A Tëaze show is a glimpse back in time, an authentic tribute to rocks most outrageous era. Playing the greatest party anthems from Bon Jovi to Van Halen, with stage moves Poison wouldn’t dare attempt. If you long for the days when the grass was green, the girls were pretty (and so were the guys), let Tëaze pour their sugar on you.
Virginia Beach’s Bennett Wales & the Relief are living proof that raw talent, ambition & honesty can still prevail in today’s music industry. The band’s musical discoveries take flight with a compelling combination of rich pop layers and mixed stylings of rhythm and blues, rock, soul, jam and americana. Together the quintet provide a vast amount of influences and gift a broadened door of multiple genres to music enthusiasts and listeners alike.
The Gold Sauce, named for a spicy, sticky, sweet, straight to your gut wing sauce. Brings the heat.
Their unique blend of funk, soul, blues and boogie keeps fans coming back and makes new believers at every show. For years now the group has filled their calendar strictly based on reputation and word of mouth. One listen, and you’ll know why.
This trio of very seasoned professionals will have you dancing and cheering all night. The sound they produce is unparalleled and often mind boggling to listeners “how does such a big sound come from only three people” is the common question. Their chemistry is obvious they have so much fun on stage and it’s contagious.
From weddings, back yard BBQ’s, country club parties, charity events and venues both big and small this band gets it done. If you want something different, funky and surprisingly refreshing.
You have found your band. The Gold Sauce… get it while it’s hot.
The Southern Belles are Adrian Ciucci (guitar/vocals), Tommy Booker (keys/vocals), Aaron Zarrow (drums/vocals) and Andrew Carper (bass/vocals). Playing a high-octane mix of funky southern psychedelic Rock & Roll, the Belles perform shows and festivals all over the county each year. The Southern Belles road-tested sound has earned them a devout following, with fans traveling far and wide to catch the show. With their upcoming album “In The Middle Of The Night,” scheduled for August 2017, the Southern Belles are picking up steam and gaining national notoriety for their original compositions and song craft. Their songs are both fun and moving, with lyrical stories evoking familiar emotions and complex musical journeys.
The Southern Belles were formed in November of 2011 in Richmond, VA by Adrian Ciucci and Zach Hudgins. Early on Adrian and Zach added Raphael Katchnioff and Tommy Booker to their already eclectic sound. The Belles started playing monthly residencies in both their hometown of Richmond at Cary St. Cafe and The Camel, and in nearby Charlottesville, at Rapture. In 2012, they released their first album, “Sharp As A Knife,” and took their show on the road.
In early winter of 2015, the Southern Belles recorded their second album, “Close To Sunrise,” at Sound of Music, the same studio they recorded “Sharp As A Knife,” and again worked with Bryan Walthall as the producer of the record. Both albums have a similar feel, but it’s clear on “Close To Sunrise” that the band is taking strides in their musical composition as well as lyrical content. With critical acclaim for the new record, the band was featured at large festivals in the summer of 2015, including both Lockn’ and Floyd Fest.
The story of the Southern Belles continues to evolve. In January of 2016, the band brought on Aaron Zarrow on the drums. Aaron, formerly of Philadelphia based jazz-funk outfit The Royal Noise, adds a new degree of precision to the band. The Southern Belles continue to tour nation-wide and have big goals for 2017 and years to come.
Cosmic highways and scenic byways. Peace be the journey.
Blazing soul-blues rocker Tommy Castro’s musical roots run deep. As he unleashes his high-energy music to fans all over the world, Castro is inspired by the sounds he absorbed while coming of age on the rough and tumble side of San Jose, California. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, this was Castro’s home turf—his stomping ground. It was a place where the street-tough Mexican Americans and the counter-culture hippies came together to drink, smoke, laugh, party and listen to tunes—the hippies with their blues and rock, the Mexicans with their soul music. Mixing the blues-rock he loved and the soul music he heard blasting out from the lowriders cruising the streets, along with the socially conscious message songs of the day, Tommy’s own sound was born. He honed his guitar playing to a razor’s edge on the city’s competitive bar scene, where he learned how to capture an audience with his intensely passionate vocals, stellar musicianship and dynamic performances. Almost every major rock and soul act, from Ike & Tina Turner to Janis Joplin to Elvin Bishop to Taj Mahal, toured through the area, and Castro was at almost every show. He saw John Lee Hooker, Albert King and Buddy Guy & Junior Wells at the same local blues bar, JJ’s, where he often jammed, dreaming of one day busting out.
Doors 7pm | Show 8pm
Buckethead is a virtuoso guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who performs within many genres of music. He has released over 300 studio recordings, way more than anyone else in the history of music. He released 178 “pikes” in the 2014-2015 period alone. He has also performed on over 50 more albums by other artists. His music spans such diverse areas as progressive metal, funk, blues, jazz, bluegrass, and avant-garde music. When performing in his theatrical persona, Buckethead used to wear a KFC bucket on his head, emblazoned with an orange bumper sticker that reads “FUNERAL” in capital black block letters, and an expressionless plain white costume mask. More recently, he has switched to a plain white bucket no longer bearing the KFC logo. He also incorporates nun chucks, robot dancing, and toy trading into his stage performances. Buckethead’s persona represents a character that was “raised by chickens” and has made it his “mission in life to alert the world to the ongoing chicken holocaust in fast-food joints around the globe.” An instrumentalist, Buckethead is best known for his electric guitar playing. He has been voted number 8 on a list in GuitarOne magazine of the “Top 10 Greatest Guitar Shredders of All Time” as well as being included in Guitar World’s lists of the “25 all-time weirdest guitarists” and is also known for being one of the fastest guitar players on planet earth. He’s also a kick ass bass player and an overall amazing live performer. Buckethead has most recently performed as a solo Artist although he has collaborated with many high-profile artists such as Bill Laswell, Les Claypool, Bernie Worrell, Iggy Pop, Serj Tankian, Mike Patton, Viggo Mortensen, Brain, and tons more.
Tickets go on sale: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23 @ 10AM
For any band to thrive on the road for nearly thirty years, there needs to be a constant source of renewal, a fresh spring of creativity at the center of the music that brings each member back for more. For Leftover Salmon, one of the great purveyors of Americana, this source came first from the American roots music traditions they came up with: bluegrass picking, Cajun two-stepping, the country blues. For all these years–over the course of their rise to become one of the biggest bands on the roots music circuit today, with legions of fans and routinely sold-out shows–Leftover Salmon have picked up many more influences. Much of this comes from the interactions between the founding members’ roots and the newer band members, who bring refreshingly different influences and ideas to the songwriting process. With their new album, Something Higher, due out May 4, 2018 on LoS Records, Leftover Salmon taps into everything from horn-blasting R&B to reverb-drenched desert noir, from the cosmic roots music sound they helped create to neo-New Orleans-meets-Appalachia liquefaction. There’s an unmistakable evolution to Leftover Salmon’s sound, and Something Higher has an edge to it that feels entirely new.
To create Something Higher, Leftover Salmon returned to long-time producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) with a new mission: to record at the famed Wavelab Studio in Tucson, Arizona, and to go all analog. The warmth of analog, coupled with Berlin’s uncommonly attuned ear for the dynamics of larger bands, brought a more focused sound to the group and challenged them as well. “He’s always looking for that thing in a song or a groove that he hasn’t heard before,” says bassist Greg Garrison about Berlin, “which is tricky because he’s heard a lot of stuff already! He pushes the band to do something different, to surprise him.” Over 10 days in Tucson, Leftover Salmon laid out the new music, each songwriter bringing a songwriting kernel and letting the rest of the band work out new improvisations to craft the final song. The key to Leftover Salmon’s music, now more than ever, is the way they marry technical precision with easy groove. It’s a trick that old jazz players used to pull, a dance between virtuosity and the illusion of ease. In crafting the new music, founding members Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt provide a foundational focus and guiding spirit, while banjo player Andy Thorn keeps the band close to their original roots in backstage picking parties. The rhythm section–bassist Garrison, keyboardist Erik Deutsch, and drummer Alwyn Robinson– was a key focus point for Berlin, who drew out members’ backgrounds in jazz and hip-hop to zero in on the heart of Leftover Salmon: the groove.
For the past quarter-century, Leftover Salmon has established itself as key to the Americana genre, digging deep into the well that supplies its influences; rock ‘n’ roll, folk, bluegrass, Cajun, soul, zydeco, jazz and blues. They are the direct descendants of bands like Little Feat, New Grass Revival, Grateful Dead and The Band, born of the heart and soul of America itself, playing music that reflects the sounds emanating from the Appalachian hills, the streets of New Orleans, the clubs of Chicago, the plains of Texas, and the mountains of Colorado. They’ve endured over all these years, earning their unequivocal stature as a truly legendary band.
Born September 6th, 1939 in Akron, Ohio, USA. From the age of nine, Coe was in and out of reform schools, correction centers and prisons. According to his publicity handout, he spent time on Death Row after killing a fellow inmate who demanded oral sex. When Rolling Stone magazine questioned this, Coe responded with a song, ‘I’d Like To Kick The Shit Out Of You’. Whatever the truth of the matter, Coe was paroled in 1967 and took his songs about prison life to Shelby Singleton who released two albums on his SSS label. Coe wrote Tanya Tucker’s 1974 US country number 1, ‘Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone)?’. He took to calling himself Davey Coe – the Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy, performing in a mask, and driving a hearse. He satirized the themes of country music with hilarious additions to Steve Goodman’s ‘You Never Even Called Me By My Name’, but has often used the clichés himself. His defiant stance and love of motorbikes, multiple tattoos and ultra-long hair made him a natural ‘Nashville outlaw’, which he wrote about in the self-glorifying ‘Longhaired Redneck’ and ‘Willie, Waylon And Me’.
In 1978 Johnny Paycheck had a US country number 1 with Coe’s ‘Take This Job And Shove It’, which inspired a film of the same title in 1981, and Coe’s own successes included the witty ‘Divers Do It Deeper’ (1978), ‘Jack Daniels If You Please’ (1979), ‘Now I Lay Me Down To Cheat’ (1982), ‘The Ride’ (1983), which conjures up a meeting between Coe and Hank Williams, and ‘Mona Lisa’s Lost Her Smile’ (1984), which reached number 2 on the US country charts, his highest position as a performer. Recordings with other performers include ‘Don’t Cry Darlin” and ‘This Bottle (In My Hand)’ with George Jones, ‘I’ve Already Cheated On You’ with Willie Nelson, and ‘Get A Little Dirt On Your Hands’ with Bill Anderson.
Coe’s 1978 album Human Emotions was about his divorce – one side being ‘Happy Side’ and the other ‘Su-I-side’. The controversial cover of Texas Moon shows the bare backsides of his band and crew, and he has also released two mail-order albums of explicit songs, Nothing Sacred and Underground.
Coe appears incapable of separating the good from the ridiculous and his albums are erratic. At his best, he is a sensitive, intelligent writer. Similarly, his stage performances with his Tennessee Hat Band differ wildly in length and quality: sometimes it is non-stop music, sometimes it features conjuring tricks. Coe’s main trick, however, is to remain successful, as country music fans grow exasperated with his over-the-top publicity. He may still be an outlaw but as Waylon Jennings remarks in ‘Living Legends’, that only means double-parking on Music Row.
The Travelin’ McCourys do not stand still. They are on the road—and online—entertaining audiences with live shows that include some of the best musicians and singers from all genres. It’s always different, always exciting, and always great music.
No other band today has the same credentials for playing traditional and progressive music. As the sons of bluegrass legend Del McCoury, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin and Rob McCoury on banjo continue their father’s work—a lifelong dedication to the power of bluegrass music to bring joy into people’s lives. And with fiddler Jason Carter and bassist Alan Bartram, the ensemble is loved and respected by the bluegrass faithful. But the band is now combining their sound with others to make something fresh and rejuvenating.
Since forming 10 years ago, the buzz surrounding Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real has been quietly intensifying. During that time, the 28-year old singer/songwriter/guitarist and his bandmates have played hundreds of shows and major festivals all over the world and built a devoted underground following. Lukas’ profile continued to rise when he contributed three songs and heavenly vocals to his dad Willie Nelson’s 2012 album, Heroes, their voices blending with potent DNA. Then two years later, life took another turn skyward when Neil Young decided to make Promise of the Real his touring and studio band. Young has guided the grateful young musicians ever since as they’ve backed the legend on tour around the world and on his two most recent albums.
These experiences were undoubtedly invaluable, but none of what has come before will prepare you for the cosmic country soul of Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, the band’s new, self-titled album, a mesmerizing, emotionally genuine, endlessly rewarding work set for release on Fantasy Records. From the epic “Set Me Down on a Cloud” to the climactic “If I Started Over,” the album delivers one sublime song and inspired performance after another.
“I knew I had a lot of good songs that transcended the cultural boundaries between rock & roll and country,” Lukas says of his vision for the album. “I wanted to get the songs as pure as they could be. We owe a lot to Neil; we made this record after coming off the road with him for two years. Neil’s been mentoring us, and we’ve been absorbing that energy, and I think it shows. We got acclimated to a different level of artistic expression. We’ve grown.”
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, produced by song-shaping specialist John Alagia (numerous Dave Matthews Band LPs, John Mayer’s Room for Squares) was recorded at The Village Studios in West Los Angeles. Promise of the Real’s six-piece line-up now includes longtime bandmates Tato Melgar (percussion), Anthony LoGerfo (drums) and Corey McCormick (bass, vocals) along with new members Jesse Siebenberg (steel guitars, Farfisa organ, vocals) and Alberto Bof (piano, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3). Stefani “Lady Gaga” Germanotta (who convincingly plays the role of Bonnie to Lukas’ Delaney) added her signature vocals to the rousing “Carolina” and “Find Yourself,” while Jess Wolfe and Holly Lessig of the Brooklyn-based indie-pop duo Lucius provide backing vocals on five of the 12 tracks, evoking Exile on Main St.’s ecstatic, gospel-rooted harmonies.
The band’s many influences can be discerned in the opening track, “Set Me Down on a Cloud,” a soulful country rocker that features Lucius’ spiritual vocals and an extended solo underscores Lukas’ tasteful guitar virtuosity.
The lilting, pastoral “Just Outside of Austin” features a guitar solo from Willie, while Lukas’ 86-year-old Aunt Bobbi plays piano. “It’s a love letter to Austin, something like Roger Miller or Glen Campbell would write,” he said.
“Runnin’ Shine,” one of the album’s first-person character studies, is written from the perspective of a young moonshiner trying to outsmart the law while hurtling along Appalachian back roads in a souped-up car loaded with homemade booze. “Perspective is huge,” says Lukas. “If you’re able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and you can relate to them, it’s really hard to hate them, even if you don’t agree with how they live their life.”
Two of the album’s most breathtaking songs, “Find Yourself” and “Forget About Georgia,” vividly retrace the turbulent final stages and bittersweet aftermath of the same doomed love affair. “After the relationship ended, I had to play Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind” every night when I was on the road with my dad, which made it literally impossible to forget about her.” Introduced by a wistful four-note guitar lick that reoccurs throughout the arrangement, “Forget About Georgia” unfolds to a “Layla”-like outpouring of romantic yearning, as the band stretches out behind Lukas’ emotional guitar soloing. Not surprisingly, it’s Young’s favorite song on the album.
Inspired by the big ballads of Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley, Lukas delivers a full-throttle vocal on the closing track, “If I Started Over,” at once a cosmic rumination and a rapturous expression of romantic devotion. “The song is asking, what if, after we die, we just come back? What if we have to do the same dream again until we learn the right lessons?”
A seasoned veteran at 28, Austin-born Lukas grew up in Maui, while spending much of his time during school breaks in his hometown and on the road with his dad. “I had a lot of passions growing up,” he says. “I played soccer, I was on the swim team, living a Maui lifestyle, surfing and skateboarding. I also loved singing and wrote my first song when I was 11. I became obsessed with guitar, playing eight to 10 hours a day. I knew what I wanted to do from a super-young age, and I made my life about it.” He and his brother Micah played in bands together in high school, and they struck up a friendship with Uruguay-born Tato Melgar, a skilled musician then making his living as a landscaper, who taught the brothers the basics of drumming.
In 2007, Lukas headed to the mainland to attend L.A.’s Loyola Marymount University. A year later, after meeting LoGerfo at a Neil Young concert, he dropped out of school and started a band with LoGerfo, Melgar and original bassist Merlyn Kelly; he named it Promise of the Real, referencing a line in Young’s 1973 song “Walk On”: “Sooner or later it all gets real.” When McCormick joined two years later on bass, the POTR lineup was set. The band woodshedded; averaging more than 200 shows a year. Drawing on Lukas’ lineage as well surrogate uncles like Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, and the classic rock and roll of J.J. Cale, The Band, Clapton era Delaney and Bonnie and of course mentor Neil Young, they began to develop their own distinctive style of American music.
Young befriended the band after checking them out at Farm Aid several years back. “Neil got in touch after that, and we started talking by email,” Lukas recounts. “Eventually, he asked us to record with him. So we recorded The Monsanto Years and played some shows together, and we fell in love with each other musically, one thing led to another and we became Neil’s band.
“What’s happened with us feels similar to the career trajectory of The Band,” he continues. “They were already a great band when they started working with Dylan, who lifted them up, which is similar to what Neil’s done for us. He’s also given people a chance to hear what we’re doing and what our own songs have to offer. Then we played the Desert Trip with Neil, along with Paul McCartney, the Stones, the Who and Dylan. That was incredible.”
Those two weekends in Indio last October turned out to be extremely fortuitous. “We met Lucius at Desert Trip,” says Lukas. “They were playing with Roger Waters—and still are. Then they came to the Bridge School Benefit, where we really got to know them. I love Jess and Holly—they really enhance the record.”
Bradley Cooper also saw Lukas play at Desert Trip, and right afterward contacted a mutual friend about helping him on the new film he’s directing and starring in, a remake of A Star is Born. “At first I was just helping him out, and then I started writing with Stefani (Lady Gaga), who’s in the movie. We connected and she and I became really close. I got very involved in this film and ended up bringing the band into it as well.”
Coming of age in a celebrated musical family, Lukas Nelson learned early on that true originality is hard won, never given. Doubtlessly blessed with a measure of musical ability, it’s clear that his natural gifts have been honed by a singular devotion to craft and a deep appreciation for the sacrifice a creative life requires. Elated by the way things have come together so beautifully, Lukas is gratified that POTR have earned this moment and seized the opportunities that have led to this album—all perfectly capturing what he’d heard in his head 18 months earlier.
“It’s just amazing how things have flowed,” Lukas marvels. “It feels divine in a way.”
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