Nils Lofgren, ‘Mountains': Album Review
Nils Lofgren has been one of rock's most trusted sidemen for more than 50 years. Initial stints with Neil Young and Crazy Horse led to work with artists as diverse as Lou Reed and Ringo Starr, and eventually, Bruce Springsteen, with whom he's collaborated as part of the E Street Band since 1984.
Along the way, Lofgren built up his own extensive career, too, first with his band Grin from before his Crazy Horse gig, and continuing through more than two dozen solo albums. These records are more labors of love than commercial behemoths, mostly released through his own labels since 2001.
The latest, Mountains, doesn't stray far from his musical patterns: loosely wound roots rock laced with the folk, blues and R&B traditions of the '60s. Lofgren is a product of his generation, and at 72 he's not throwing too many curves against those expectations. Old friends Young and Starr drop by, and so do David Crosby (who died in January) and jazz great Ron Carter, providing a backdrop for songs about political upheaval, love connections and another late rock 'n' roll icon, Charlie Watts.
Lofgren doesn't waste time getting down to business. The opening track, "Ain't the Truth Enough," was written following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, and over three and a half minutes circles around to misinformation cycles and the recent assault on women's rights. "Who filled your head with lies?" he asks over slippery slide guitar, room-filling organ and Starr's steady backbeat. "The truth ain't that hard to find."
Mountains occasionally heads into similar topical territory ("Only Ticket Out," "We Better Find It"), but mostly Lofgren just plugs in and sticks to matters of the heart, whether he's memorializing the Rolling Stones drummer on the shuffling "Won’t Cry No More (For Charlie Watts)," covering Springsteen's shelved 1995 love song "Back in Your Arms" or strapping on an acoustic guitar to thank his wife and album co-producer on "Nothin’s Easy (For Amy)," which features backing vocals by Young. It's routine stuff for Lofgren, but to his credit, he never sounds less than engaged.