Neil Young And Crazy Horse : Americana
That some of the finest exponents of Americana have been Canadian is something of a cultural curiosity – The Band, Neil Young and even The Guess Who (well, not really Americana, but American Woman presumably is intended to have some American cultural relevance).
Having redefined the American cultural tradition in the early '70s with After The Gold Rush and Harvest, Neil Young’s latest record with Crazy Horse, Americana, cuts to the chase, with an album of covers of classic Americana folk tracks. On one level, it’s a bit on the cheesy side – the mere notion of the crusty Mr Young singing the classic folk-protest anthem Your Land Is Our Land (joined by Young’s long time sparring partner, Stephen Stills, no less), or even Get A Job (forever associated in my mind with Dick Clark and American Bandstand) is enough to make you wonder if Neil’s finally fallen off the precipice of credibility.
Yet in Young's hands, just about anything is safe. The opening to Oh Susannah is as dirty and confronting as the underbelly of the American dream, the song’s original folk origins soon left behind in a trail of murder-infested blues. On Clementine Neil and his crew play with meaning, allegory and mythology; Tom Dula becomes a garage singalong for the true believers, replete with moonshine and southern tobacco. The executioner’s tale of Gallows Pole appears in the distant guise of Ray Charles’ Hit the Road Jack, Travel On – another prototypical American tale that purports to excuse flight from responsibility – is a good ol’ boys night out and High Flyin’ Bird is Crazy Horse in all its grinding garage glory, and gee golly fuck it’s good. And who else can pull off a rendition of God Save The Queen – the real track, that is – and get away with it?
Come November this year Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are going to be trading sharp rhetorical barbs, each designed to designate the speaker as the true prophet of America’s future. They’d both do well to speak to Neil Young. He understands America better than any American.
BY PATRICK EMERY
Best Track: High Flyin’ Bird
If You Like These, You'll Like This: THE BAND, PAUL ROBESON, JOHNNY CASH
In A Word: Americana