Neil Young has reunited with his old bandmates Crazy Horse to shed new life to 100-year-old folk tunes on Americana. These are not the obscure tracks Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen have tackled in the past. Instead, Americana sees Young and Crazy Horse covering some of the most popular songs in the folklore tradition with rocking renditions of “Clementine” and “She’ll be Coming ‘Round The Mountain.”
Young’s musical strengths often lie in his prolific songwriting, and although he didn’t pen a single tune on Americana, he’s managed to make the songs his own by stripping them down and revealing their original dark meaning. He makes sure we understand the historical relevance behind every track by including detailed background information about each song in his terrific liner notes. Even more interestingly, the notes give insight on the arrangements as well, revealing how some of them were actually inspired by The Squires – Young’s first band in the early 1960s. From that point of view alone, Americana is an admirable album; the problem however is that those efforts don’t always translate well onto disc. Unfortunately, there’s a lack of musical consistency that could have been avoided by omitting certain non-folk songs like the Doo-Wop track “Get a Job” or “God Save the Queen” – not the Sex Pistols one, but the British national anthem.
Americana may not be Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s finest album, but it’s definitely worth a listen if for no other reason than their commendable take on century-old songs. They’ve managed to turn the 1847 minstrel “Oh, Susannah” into a garage rock song and that’s no easy feat. The highest praise goes to Neil Young’s rendition of “High Flyin’ Bird,” which is perhaps the most Young sounding song on the album. At first listen, you can almost swear it’s always been a part of his songbook. Interestingly, Young heard “High Flyin’ Bird” sung by future Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young bandmate Stephen Stills in 1964. Another praiseworthy track is the 19th century spiritual “Wayfarin’ Stranger,” with Young’s soft vocals perfectly complimenting the song’s plaintive lyrics.
If Americana doesn’t completely satisfy Neil Young fans, the doubly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has a few more projects coming up including an autobiography and a Jonathan Demme documentary entitled Neil Young Journeys. Young is one of the finest and most influential singer/songwriters of the past 40 years. He’s always done as he pleases and we’re lucky to be let into his world every once in a while.
Reviewer: Sarah Geledi
IRC: Bill Pulice
You can read more of Sarah Geledi by visiting her webblog at http://goodrockingtonight.wordpress.com/
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