Category Archives: Promise of the Real

Today’s Top 5: Saturday, 6/25/2016

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I’m grooving to Earth as I type – both the planet and Neil Young’s latest album. It’s a collection of nature-inspired songs from throughout his career (plus the new “Seed Justice”) recorded with Promise of the Real during the 2015 Rebel Content tour and enhanced, on some tracks, with a choir and assorted animal noises, including birds, crickets and other insects. There’s a few songs from last year’s The Monsanto Years, plus “My Country Home,” “Vampire Blues,” “Human Highway,” “After the Gold Rush” and a 28-minute “Love & Only Love.” It’s loud, electric and intimate, all at once.

And, yes, the featured creatures give it a surreal edge. It’s slightly crazed. It’s also great.

1) Neil Young & Promise of the Real – “Like an Inca.” A great version of the classic Trans-era song, which isn’t on Earth (though well could’ve been), performed in Paris on June 23, 2016.

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2) Rylie Bourne – “Mary Ann.” If you were to ask me what my favorite album is at the moment, it wouldn’t be Neil’s Earth (I’ve only had a day with it), but Rylie Bourne’s self-titled debut. It was released in late 2015, though I wasn’t aware of it at the time; if I had, it easily would’ve been one of my favorites of the year. It’s that good. In short: It’s country music the way country music should be, of the soul and heart. It conjures the Carter Family, Merle Haggard and the outlaw sound. At times, it’s light; more often, however, it’s dark and cathartic – think Hank Jr.’s Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound (minus the orneriness). “Mary Ann” echoes Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”

In years (decades?) past, she easily would’ve found a home on WXPN, Philadelphia’s listener-supported radio station. Back in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, when they played less of the old and more of the new, they helped break quite a few of the classic Americana-country acts, including Mary Chapin Carpenter, Nanci Griffith, the Jayhawks and Lucinda Williams, as well as the post-prison Steve Earle. (I actually tweeted the Morning Show about Rylie, and they said they’d check her out. Fingers crossed they do.)

3) Rylie Bourne – “Foolin’ Myself.” Another thing that I like about the album: It simultaneously honors and stretches country conventions. Forget tear-in-my-beer laments; here’s a vodka-in-a-water-bottle alcoholic’s tale. The protagonist is both self-aware and in denial; and will break your heart.

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4) Victoria Reed – “Nothing to Lose.” Here’s another favorite new artist of mine. The daughter of Alto Reed, sax player for Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band, she mines a folksy pop sound that’s utterly intoxicating. Her debut album, Chariot, was released earlier this year. I’d love to say I discovered it on my own, but it was her dad – who I follow on Facebook – that pointed the way. (She’s someone else who should be getting airplay on XPN.)

5) Victoria Reed – “Make It Easy.” Here’s another taste:

Neil Young @ Susquehanna Bank Center, 7/16/15

NeilticketEpic. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of last’s night Neil Young concert at the Susquehanna Banks Center in Camden, N.J. , which is across the Delaware River from Philly. The second? Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, who accompanied Neil, are the real deal. They rock like a young Crazy Horse.

Neil sauntered onto stage at about 8:45pm, after two farmers’ daughters had sprinkled and planted seeds around the stage. (At least, from my distant seat, that’s what it appeared they were doing.) He didn’t waste any time, either, sitting at the piano and opening with the classic “After the Gold Rush.”

He sang “Long May You Run” and a few sing-alongs from Harvest…

… before closing the solo portion of the night with a heartfelt “Mother Earth.” Then, Promise of the Real joined him – and, wow. Just wow. They’re a perfect fit with and foil for Neil. Here they are with another Harvest classic, “Out on the Weekend.”

And here they are with “Words.”

The piece de resistance? A near-20 minute “Down by the River.”

I should mention, the new songs flowed perfectly with the old; and the audience, by and large, got into them. It helps, I think, that his anti-GMO/anti-corporate/pro-ordinary people stance is cloaked with rough and ragged Crazy Horse-like chords. Here’s one of my favorites from The Monsanto Years, “A New Day for Love.”

And, after being on stage for two hours and 45 minutes, Neil kicked off the two-song encore with “Cortez the Killer.” A raucous “Cinnamon Girl” closed the show, which ended – by my clock – at exactly 11:58pm.

Overall, the 29-song-strong set was extraordinary. Songs from Everybody Knows This Is NowhereHarvest and Harvest Moon; a Buffalo Springfield gem (“Flying on the Ground is Wrong”); and guitar jams that were absolute wonders to behold.

The set: After the Gold Rush/Heart of Gold/Long May You Run/Old Man/Mother Earth/Hold Back the Tears/Out on the Weekend/Unknown Legend/Peace of Mind/From Hank to Hendrix/Harvest Moon/Wolf Moon/Words/Flying on the Ground Is Wrong/Walk On/Bad Fog of Loneliness/A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop/People Want to Hear About Love/A New Day for Love/Down by the River/Workin’ Man/Big Box/Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere/Monsanto Years/If I Don’t Know/Love and Only Love///Cortez the Killer**/Cinnamon Girl**

(** = encore)