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CD: Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Americana | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Americana

CD: Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Americana

Something old, something borrowed from gnarled US rocker

Young cranks up the 'Horse for a journey through the past

Ever since their original collaboration on 1969's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Neil Young and Crazy Horse have made music that sounded as old as the hills. Primitive and funky, they reduce rock to its raw materials, without flash or frills or any chords more complicated than a G7.

For this new project (their first together since Greendale in 2003), Young has assembled a batch of elderly folk songs and traditional ballads and processed their simple chord structures through the Crazy Horse blender.

Folk music connoisseurs will recognise several of these, even if Young has given himself plenty of latitude with the arrangements. "This Land is Your Land", with lyrics by Woody Guthrie, is played with a jaunty skipping beat, like a Boy Scout singalong. "Jesus' Chariot", aka "She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain", evidently speaks to the dark side of Crazy Horse, who cloak it in ominous minor chords while Young peels off thunderous guitar drones overhead. "Gallows Pole" makes a point of sounding nothing like the Led Zeppelin version, instead applying a jogging clip-clop beat which imparts an air of whimsical jauntiness.

Sometimes this stuff falls flat on its face. "Tom Dula" (better known as "Tom Dooley") is the story of a Confederate soldier hanged for murdering his fiancee, but the weary, plodding beat that Young applies to it is the aural equivalent of a life sentence. "High Flyin' Bird" is hamstrung by its awkward chord progression and, frankly, sheer tedium. Even the novelty of hearing Young - who is, of course, Canadian - singing "God Save the Queen" doesn't make the tune any more interesting, though I must admit I didn't know it was the US national anthem before our colonial cousins adopted "The Star Spangled Banner". 

But put Young together with the Horse and a few sparks usually fly. The troupe score with a satisfyingly chunky take of Stephen Foster's "Oh Susannah" and a storming minor-key version of "Clementine", which is reminiscent of such past powerchord glories as "Southern Pacific". Best of all is "Get a Job", the Silhouettes' 1957 doowop classic, tackled here with gum-chewing delinquency. Nonetheless, if you already own Everybody Knows..., Zuma or Ragged Glory, you may ask yourself why you need this.

Watch video of Oh Susannah


Even the novelty of hearing Young singing 'God Save the Queen' doesn't make the tune any more interesting


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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