Myriad people have interpreted Willie Nelson’s songs, and most of them have no choice but to put their own spin on it; attempting to mimic Willie’s intimate, idiosyncratic phrasing, or his distinctive tone is an exercise in futility for most musicians.
Willie’s son Lukas Nelson isn’t like most musicians though. Certainly, he’s done an impressive job of building his own identity as an artist with his band Promise of the Real, but he’s still capable of reminding listeners of his lineage. When he takes one of Willie’s own tunes on, he’s the rare artist capable of channeling his dad’s uncanny voice, both reedy and resonant at the same time.
Earlier this month, appearing in-studio on Nashville’s famous WSM Country Radio, Lukas delivered a lovely rendition of one of his dad’s famous tunes: an unadorned cover of “Funny (How Time Slips Away),” accompanied solely by his guitar. It was the same room in which Willie recorded the original in 1961.
The high-quality video and recording is a marked improvement over the attempt he recorded three years ago—though, to be fair, that rendition was something he learned on the fly (and on the piano, no less) while hanging out at a friend’s cabin back before he honed his chops playing with Neil Young or Lady Gaga.
There’s something charming in watching Lukas evolve as an artist through one of his dad’s most memorable songs. Promise of the Real dropped two albums last year—the eponymous Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real and The Visitor, the band’s second record backing up Neil Young. Next up for the scion of country music royalty is his film debut, where he and the rest of POTR will once more spend their time as a bankable backing band—this time supporting Bradley Cooper’s character in Warner Bros’ remake of the Kris Kristofferson/Barbra Streisand (or Judy Garland/James Mason, if you’re old school) musical A Star is Born. Lukas also co-wrote songs with Gaga for her character to sing and was hired as an “authenticity consultant” for Cooper (who directed the film). And when it comes to authenticity, listening to Lukas take on “Funny (How Time Slips Away)” definitely proves why he’s the right guy for the job.