Jeff Tamarkin on August 31, 2023
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Nils Lofgren wasn’t always just a trusty guitar-slinging sideman to Bruce Springsteen and, before that, Neil Young—that he’s released more than 20 albums under his own name and, prior to those, a few with his band Grin. In fact, Lofgren’s solo career has now been ongoing without any long breaks for more than 50 years, and while some of his solo albums have been more memorable than others, the majority have been solid statements that repeatedly validate the musician’s worth outside of the utilityman position. Mountains, co-produced by Lofgren and his wife Amy, presents 10 new self-composed tunes that amply display Lofgren’s versatility. There are a few guests of note—Young, his late sometimes-bandmate David Crosby, jazz bass great Ron Carter, some drummer dude named Ringo (Lofgren has been a member of the All-Starr Band) and even a gospel choir—but the focus remains squarely on the frontman, who clearly has some things he wants to say. Off the bat, the E Street Band-esque “Ain’t the Truth Enough” lays out one part of what’s on Lofgren’s mind: “Who filled your head with lies/ You’re Kool-Aid hypnotized/ I coulda saved your mind/ Truth ain’t that hard to find/ Man you’re pissin’ on your soul,” he sings in this opening track, forcing you to wonder just who inspired that unseemly sentiment. There are a few different ways you can take it, but the tone and the driving pulse (thank you, Ringo) make the intention clear. “Nothin’s Easy (For Amy)” is, less ambiguously, inspired by, and aimed at, its composer’s partner, but it’s no unabashed love song: “I saw every bomb explode/ She’s the tulip left in the road,” he sings, its stark imagery just one of many points among these Mountains where Lofgren serves up a reminder that he’s every bit as formidable as the guys he hangs around.