CD Review: Neil Young and Crazy Horse - "Americana"

I'll just admit that when I read the track listing for "Americana," the first CD by Neil Young and Crazy Horse in 9 years, I sighed.

Yes, I wanted to hear new music from Young but gees, do we really need another cover of American folk classics such as "Oh Susanna," and "This Land is Your Land?" A few bars into the first track on the album, I would have answered with a heartfelt affirmative that only deepened as I heard more of these beautifully re-crafted songs.

Leave it to Neil Young to create such -- let's say elegant -- rock versions of the folk classics many of us learned during elementary school sing a-longs -- "This Land is Your Land," "Tom Dula" and "Clementine."

If a listener doesn't tune into the words on some of the songs, it'd be easy to mistake them for  modern-day rock anthems. That's especially true on the album's opening track "Oh Susanna," which is awash in electric guitars and throbbing drums plus Young's unmistakeable voices, which still have the strength and nuances they held a few decades ago.

That's not to say that Young fires up every song he covers. "This Land is Your Land," is a fairly straightforward cover of the much-loved Woody Guthrie tune. Same for "Travel On." Swap out the electric for acoustic guitar on that tune, which starts with Young singing a-capella, and you could picture families playing and singing this around a campfire.

Young's 11-song album ends with a cover of the de facto British National Anthem "God Save the Queen," which has sparked a fair amount of outrage in the British press. The gripes seem to center around the song's inclusion on an album titled "Americana" and the tweaks Young made to the lyrics and melody.

Young's notes about each song on the album include his reminder that "God Save The Queen" may well have been sung in North America before the American Revolution. The tweaks, he writes, were made in part to recognize America's subsequent independence.

I'm certainly not advocating offending a country by changing its National Anthem but Young, a Canadian by the way, certainly seems to have put a lot of thought into the song before he made the not-really-offensive-in-my-view changes. Add to that the notion that many of the songs Young covers are thought of as stuffy and old-fashioned at best by younger generations, and it leaves you questioning if such remakes are truly outrage worthy.

My view is that anyone who can make songs such as "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain" cool again and introduce classic songs to a new generation is a genius, in my view.

As a sidenote, Young and his band are now recording another album presumably of original material, according to his reps. Watch for it, hopefully later this year.

You can find out more about "Americana" and pre-order the June 5 release from Young's website.

 

 

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Tags: Americana, God, Guthrie, Neil, Queen, Save, Woody, Young, folk, music, More…the

Comment by RP N10 on May 4, 2012 at 10:54am

My wife is always telling me I'm unplugged from the zeitgeist, but I live in England and if there's been outrage in the British press (over God Save The Queen)  I've missed it.  Did this come from anywhere serious?

More seriously, I had a sinking feeling when I heard about the record but having heard the Oh Susanna, was considerably heartened.  

One interesting development day was the announcement that if you buy the single on iTunes you get the video for free - what was interesting was that an MP3 hater like Neil is trying to tempt his fans to buy music in a cruddy format.   

Comment by Jack Williams on May 4, 2012 at 3:10pm

More seriously, I had a sinking feeling when I heard about the record but having heard the Oh Susanna, was considerably heartened.  

That's exactly how I feel.   Odds have increased that I will pre-order it.

Comment by Nancy Dunham on May 4, 2012 at 3:37pm

It really is a good album -- I mean a REALLY good album.

BTW -- the outrage over the God Save the Queen was in a few of the papers there. Since I don't live there, I don't know how serious it is but as I recall it was the Guardian....

Thanks to both of you for taking the time to comment.

Comment by RP N10 on May 4, 2012 at 4:45pm

I googled it and the only outrage I could come up with was the Daily Mail and unusually for the Mail they hadn't even dredged up some right wing half wit to parrot their outrage for the world other than for the Sex Pistols song of the same name.  The Guardian website trawled up zero (which didn't surprise me as it's my daily paper and I can't imagine I would have missed that).  The Mail specialises in manufactured ultra-rightist histrionics when it isn't spouting the Conservative party manifesto or (as it did in the 1930s) supporting Hitler and the Fascists.

Comment by Nancy Dunham on May 4, 2012 at 5:06pm

Ah, well, I knew it was some paper. Shows how great my memory is. Thanks again for writing and your comment!

Comment by L A Johnson on May 4, 2012 at 10:44pm

There's little outrage over here, for me there is disappointment that this record appears to be yet another sloppy Neil Young record (Fork In The Road) - as a fan/supporter of 40+ years I'm used to Neil's diversions and that's just fine, not having heard the complete record I'm sure I will buy it and then play it 2-3 times and file it next 'Are You Passionate' ,FITR & 'Broken Arrow'. I'm sure for many of us we just want to see released Time Fades Away (my vinyl copy is worn out) - and the unreleased songs from 70-80 on archives II plus the CSNY live material from 74 on dvd that has been promised.

Comment by Jeremy Gaunt (music JJMG) on May 5, 2012 at 4:28am

I have heard nothing about any outrage here, but I would not put it past some of our odious Little England tabloids to try to stir something. Just rise above it. Music is music. Good or bad, nobody owns it.

Comment by Nancy Dunham on May 5, 2012 at 6:28am

I couldn't agree more. Some people are just always looking for a reason to be negative. Thanks for your comment!

Comment by Will James on May 5, 2012 at 7:41am

What about outrage here, among the Americana folks? This is pure mockery of the "genre." And I LOVE IT! At least one old rocker hasn't retired to the Americana home.

Comment by Nancy Dunham on May 5, 2012 at 7:42am
Good point!

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.