Nils Lofgren has made his bones as a sideman, lending six-string fire to Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. If that's not indication enough of his skills, there's the rumor that the Rolling Stones considered him as a replacement for Mick Taylor.
But Lofgren is a skilled songwriter as well. He experienced some success in the mid-'70s as a solo artist after his first band, Grin, succumbed to commercial indifference. He's continued to release albums for the past 25 years, and though they're sometimes uneven, their collective weight is impressive. He's worked with some great musicians (most fruitfully with Lou Reed), and his latest, Sacred Weapon, features guest turns by Willie Nelson, Graham Nash, and David Crosby. It's his best studio effort in at least 15 years, balancing sizzling rock-guitar workouts with well-written, emotionally taut songs. If we're lucky, he'll play "No Mercy," a boxing-ring parable worthy of Ring Lardner.