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Neil Young And Crazy Horse - Americana

  by Andy Cassidy

published: 27 / 6 / 2012

Neil Young And Crazy Horse - Americana
Label: Warner Bros
Format: CD


Unorthodox reworkings of classic mainly American folk songs from Neil Young, which reunites him with Crazy Horse for the first time since 2003

That Neil Young’s mind is a fecund and febrile place has never been in doubt. His judgement has, however, proven questionable over the years. Young’s career has taken so many twists and turns that only a fool would endeavour to guess where his next project might take him and so it comes as no surprise that his take on the “classic American songbook” is something of an unorthodox affair. His latest release, 'Americana', is his 34th studio album, and reunites him with his legendary backing band Crazy Horse for the first time on record since 2003’s 'Greendale'. The album consists of re-imaginings of eleven folk songs, mainly of North American origin, each given the Neil Young treatment with overdrive-soaked guitars and raw sparring vocals between Young and bass player Billy Talbot. The album kicks off with an unrecognisable version of 'Oh Susannah'. While Young has retained the original’s lyrics, he has created his own melody, turning the song into a grungey campfire anthem with a punchy sing-along feel. On first listen the song just sounds odd, like a familiar painting seen in negative. Perhaps only Neil Young could sing, “Well I come from Alabama with my B-A-N-J-O on my knee" with such sincerity. The album continues, through strangely distorted versions of well-known songs – 'Clementine', 'Jesus’ Chariot (She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain)', 'Get a Job' and 'Gallow’s Pole' all receive thunderous make-overs which, if nothing else, forces the listener to re-appraise the songs’ content. Indeed, if there is a deeper point to this album, it may be that, by challenging our ideas of popular songs detailing the birth of America, we challenge our accepted view of American history. Or then again, it could just be that Young and Crazy Horse had so much fun rocking out to 'Farmer John' on 1990’s 'Ragged Glory'. The album ends with a frankly uncool version of 'God Save the Queen'. Is Young paying tribute to Old Liz in her Diamond Jubilee year, or is the song’s inclusion Young’s way of illustrating the British monarchy’s role in the subjugation of the Native American people? Or is he simply a patriotic Canadian singing in honour of the Commonwealth’s head of state. Musically, the album is an enjoyable, typically Crazy Horse set and the interplay between Young and his is every bit as blistering as it ever was. The first time I listened to the album, I just didn’t get it but with subsequent listens, I’ve found myself enjoying the album more. Don’t get me wrong, it is by no means Young’s strongest work – it’s not even among his top five records in the past ten years – but I believe it has a place in Young’s canon. The word is that he is currently finishing another album with Crazy Horse. Expect disco, hip-hop or maybe reggae…

Track Listing:-
1 Oh Susannah
2 Clementine
3 Tom Dula
4 Gallows Pole
5 Get A Job
6 Travel On
7 High Flyin' Bird
8 Jesus' Chariot
9 This Land Is Your Land
10 Wayfarin' Stranger
11 God Save The Queen

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