As the opening seconds of Nils Lofgren’s latest solo release, Mountains, fills the air, it immediately becomes the aural equivalent of returning home after a long trip and sitting in a comfy recliner that’s been shaped over the years to your body’s dimensions. Lofgren isn’t attempting anything more than what he’s been doing for decades. And what he’s been doing is good; just like his latest, Mountains.
The album merges influences ranging from the British Invasion, Stax Volt, Motown and the Blues plus what he absorbed over the many years working with Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young. The 10 numbers bear the consistent nature of his more than 50 years as a recording and touring artist. Overall, the songs harbor a worn-in quality with a simple, catchy musical sensibility that balances heart-on-his-sleeve lyrical ambition with the consequences encountered while navigating through life and love.
The opening number, “Ain’t the Truth Enough,” sounds familiar yet fresh in the same manner that the Rolling Stones and AC/DC have developed a stylistic approach that’s been endlessly reinvented by the band members. It’s instantly noticeable as Lofgren-esque. Here, Nils sounds troubled here as he recounts the January 6th attack on the Capitol through the lens of loved ones dealing with someone who embraced the Big Lie. Rather than preachy, it makes its point through a family drama. “Only Ticket Out” finds the narrator recalling his darkest days of drugs and liquor that finally leads to the potential of a turnaround. Then, Lofgren’s cover of Springsteen’s “Back in Your Arms” completes the opening emotional trifecta as the subject aims to return home to a life that once was perfect.
Love appears again in a more soothing manner as Lofgren sings to his wife, and the album’s co-producer, Amy on “Nothin’ Easy” and “Only Your Smile.” And, like several numbers on his last studio album, “Blue with Lou,” a loving tribute for the dearly departed arrives on “Won’t Cry No More (For Charlie Watts),” which mimics the in-the-pocket playing and swing of the legendary Rolling Stones drummer.
With a little help from his friends such as Ringo Starr, Neil Young, David Crosby, Cindy Mizelle (E Street Band) and Ron Carter as well as appearances by longtime musical cohorts Andy Newmark (drums) and Kevin McCormick (bass), Lofgren’s vision of anger, love, hope and fear blossoms, making for a potent listening experience from start to finish.