Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Americana

Reprise

Jun 20, 2012 Issue #41 - Yeasayer Bookmark and Share


Surely Neil Young must be off his rocker. For his first album in nearly 9 years with Crazy Horse, the band that began its association with Young with epic, career-defining tracks like "Down By the River" and "Cowgirl in the Sand" and cemented its legacy in albums like Rust Never Sleeps and 1990's Ragged Glory, Young has decided to record an album of classic American compositions. Songs like "Oh Susannah" and "This Land Is Your Land." Imagine guitarist Frank "Poncho" Sampedro's face when Neil told him he wants to bring back Crazy Horse to do covers of "Clementine" and "Jesus' Chariot," better recognized by its repeated verse: "She'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes." I imagine it went something like this: "Wait, you gave up on the Buffalo Springfield reunion for this?!"

As it turns out, the weirdest thing about Americana is how well it works. Listen to the album twice and you'll think these songs always belonged to Neil. These compositions date as recently as the '50s and as far back as the 1800s, and Young transforms them, recapturing their power for a new age. "Tom Dula," an old folk song based on an 1866 murder, becomes eight-and-a-half minutes of electric guitar power. The 19th century tune "Wayfarin' Stranger" is imbued with a gentle depth of feeling. And the jaunty "Gallows Pole," based on American folk musician Odetta's interpretation, might just be the most rollicking take on a song about a hanging you have ever heard. Sure, this is esoteric stuff, but the aforementioned "Jesus' Chariot" has more than a faint resemblance in its resurrection to "Like a Hurricane." And who better than Neil Young to relate Woody Guthrie's more subversive original manuscript of "This Land Is Your Land"? Americana brings these songs back to life, and reclaims America's musical history with them. (www.neilyoung.com)

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