Upbeat, lively, and fun perfectly describes the latest release from Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real. The new album titled Sticks and Stones uses sliding guitar riffs, animated piano melodies, and rich lyrics to showcase stories of unforgettable nights out and fast living before settling down and reflecting on the good times.
The album opens with the title track “Sticks and Stones”, a toe-tapping country twang tune that was produced by Nelson himself. With clever lyricism “Sometimes when I’m uninspired/I take a hit to get me higher/Some folks might describe me as a sinner” we get a glimpse into the free-spirited side of Nelson.
Following the title song is the memorable track “Alcohallelujah”. By incorporating country with some gospel influence, Nelson proves that he is not limited to just one genre. The song starts with a choir singing the fun made-up word “Alcohallelujah” before jumping into a bluesy country tempo with some rocking guitar. Nelson shows his broad vocal range in this one by singing some lyrics in low keys which then lead up to higher notes. The choir is mixed in throughout, making it a unique track on the album.
“More Than Friends” is the only collaboration on the record and the blend of Lainey Wilson’s voice with Nelson’s does not disappoint. This catchy, upbeat anthem talks of living in the moment with someone. The two subjects are just friends but for one night, they’re something more. With lines like, “Forget tomorrow/We can face the music then/But I promise you tonight will never end/If we pretend/We’re more than friends” the boundaries of a friendship are ignored as both individuals pursue things further and decide to deal with the consequences later. The catchy mini guitar solo leading into a fun bass and drum cadence halfway through the song makes for an entertaining listening experience.
If you’re searching for some folky piano riffs “If I Didn’t Love You” is the song you’re looking for. It starts out strong with some striking guitar, but the dramatic piano solo played in a high key is what caught my attention the most. It is a sweet tune about loving someone and knowing them better than you know yourself. But not to worry, if you appreciate a comforting guitar solo you can find it at the end of the song “Overpass.”
Incorporating a ballad into the mix, “Lying” is an intimate acoustic song where listeners simply get to hear Nelson’s voice and his guitar. After such danceable and lively tracks, “Lying” serves as a point in the album to take a pause and reflect on crazy nights out. It talks of missing someone and noting past mistakes. Nelson sings, “I been lyin’ all night long/Losing love ain’t worth the songs I write.” There is a sense of longing and heartache with this one that sets a whole new tone.
A song that is sure to put a smile on your face is “All Four Winds”. This electrifying track on the album utilizes a catchy harmonica tune and plucky guitar riffs to give off a more yacht rock vibe. The instrumentals on this track make you feel like you’re vacationing on a tropical island or going on a road trip. It is one of my personal favorites from the album for this reason.
The album ends on a more mellow note with “The View”. This sweet song is a perfect way to wrap up the fun-loving record. With some light acoustic guitar going in the background, Nelson sings of putting a life of partying behind him after meeting someone. The song recounts, “I don’t get no island fever, and the grass couldn’t get much greener/Made my home over you, and/I’ll never get tired of the view.” The narrator has found happiness and is content with their life. The lesson of not taking things for granted is also present here with “I don’t take it for granted, but my plane has safely landed.” With this hymn, the album wraps up with a very satisfying ending.
Sticks and Stones is an album that simply put me in a good mood. Each track is so unique, but they all fit so well together in the order they were placed. Lukas Nelson has shown that he is carving his own path in the music industry aside from his father, Willie Nelson. Several of the songs on this album had me tapping my feet and bopping my head to the beat. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real are currently touring so be sure to check them out!
Reviewed by Carmen Zdanis