Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Dez Reviews Neil Young & Crazy Horse's 'Americana', 2012
Don't know what it is about Canadians, but a handful of great Canadian expatriate musicians capture the essence of America better than most American groups. Think The Band. And Neil Young. Maybe it is something like de Tocqueville. It takes an outsider to really see who and what we are.
Neil Young follows one of Dez's cardinal rules of music on his new effort with his stalwart garage band, Crazy Horse. That is when you are going to cover a song, do something different with it. Don't simply try and recreate what was already done. It takes a certain boldness to take someone else's work and then twist it for your own purposes. I get so tired of artists who have so much reverence for the past that when they cover a classic blues or folk tune, they dare not stray far from scripture (yes, that means you, Mr. Clapton). Thank God for Neil Young. Neil has no such restraints.
These songs from our American canon need to live and breathe and evolve. This is a concept album of sorts, with Neil and Crazy Horse running American folk classics through the Horse grinder. They are loud, loose and vital versions. On several of the tracks Neil has written completely original music, while on others he tries to stay at least in the neighborhood of the original arrangements, albeit drenched in distortion. Some work better than others, but taken as a whole this is a record that should be treasured in a way. Now this being Crazy Horse, there is a certain sameness throughout, but it is a ragged, lumbering, beautiful sameness.
The record flows together as a piece, but highlights include the rolling opener "Oh Susannah," the extended workout on "Tom Dula," "Jesus' Chariot" (aka 'She'll be comin' around the mountain') is a real hoot, and Neil's arrangement for "High Flyin' Bird" is the most gripping of the record. I would recommend buying the CD or album as opposed to downloading it, because Neil's liner notes are fantastic and informative regarding the history of each of the tunes.
This is the third excellent Neil Young record in a row. I think we can say that he is back on track once again after a 15 year dip.
**** out of *****
ABOVE: Here's the video for "Jesus' Chariot"
ABOVE: I know I posted this video for "Oh Susannah" recently, but it is worth repeating