Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Americana (2012)

Share this:

Chances are pretty good that you already know the basic lowdown on this album: 1) It’s the first Neil Young/Crazy Horse record since 2003’s Greendale 2) The songs are all covers and 3) The covers are so damned old that most are in the public domain. Young himself describes them as songs you’ve “learned in kindergarten.” And if there’s one band that, for the last forty-five years, you know exactly how they will sound, that’s Crazy Horse. Thus, there’s little suspense about this record despite the high anticipation (highly anticipated because it’s Neil Young…with Crazy Horse, for Pete’s sake).

Not having to write songs, not having to pay hardly anyone to play theirs and performing in the rough-and-ready style they’ve been doing since 1969, this must have been one of the cheapest and easiest records to make; it could have been brainstormed during breakfast and in the can before dinner. That’s part of the draw of NY/CH; they still hand make rock without any of the frills and all the immediacy, and that formula doesn’t change for Americana. The actual product does mostly conform to what you’d think it would sound like, with the majority of the tracks just a few chord changes away from being “Cinnamon Girl,” “Down By The River” or “Cowgirl In The Sand.”

There are a few surprises, though, and it has to do not with how the songs are played, but how they’re re-harmonized, sometimes nearly to the point of being unrecognizable. When you consider how common these tunes are to everyone, identifiable within the first 3 or 4 notes, it takes a lot of contortion to do that. One is a lot more likely to think “Oh Susannah” (video below) is actually a cover of Shocking Blue’s “Venus” than Stephen Foster’s 19th century folk standard. The major re-workings continue on through “Clementine” and “Tom Dula.” In other instances, Crazy Horse remains more faithful to the original, in the Crazy Horse style, of course. The doo wop classic “Get A Job” is still a doo wop song in their hands. “The Land Is Your Land” is rendered as the mid-20th century folk tune we always imagined it being, complete with choral vocals for the refrain. “God Save The Queen” is a slyly administered history lesson, with the initial lyrics being the lyrics of the title and later switching to the words of “America,” which borrows the melody of “God Save The Queen.” The country side of the band comes out on “Travel On” and “Wayfarin’ Stranger.”

The point that these songs are ancient is played up on the cover; a faded, black and white picture of the band dressed in old garb sitting in a car from around 1920. But I can’t help thinking that their own sound is pretty old, too. Like the geriatric songs they perform on Americana, Neil Young & Crazy Horse maintain the same appeal from decades ago up to this day.

Americana goes on sale June 5, by Reprise Records.

[amazon_enhanced asin=”1617130370″ /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B007N85ZXY” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B001VZY4MI” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B007RTUPTS” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B0000AI44P” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B000002LMK” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B000002KCI” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B001W2F730″ /][amazon_enhanced asin=”B000I5X80G” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B000002KDI” /]

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
Share this:
Close