Neil Young & Crazy Horse
It's been near a decade since Neil Young & Crazy Horse have released a record together and things might have changed for us all. But when you get these particular musicians together, as they are on Americana, you find that old distinctive, ragged sound that they stir up together so well. The 11 songs on Americana are arguably not new, in the sense that Young just wrote them or that he wrote them all; but rather, as the singer claims, these are songs "we all know from kindergarten but Crazy Horse has rearranged them, and they now belong to us." Either way, this is a loud and loose bunch of tunes.
Opening with a nasty single string lead of a truly wild take on "Oh Susannah" (yes, that "That Susannah"), the backing vocals - if you can call them that - make this classic American tune sound almost demonic. "Tom Dula" has got the full darkness of the band with Young on his last legs vocally - which makes this infamous North Caroline folk song tune work all that better.
Forget Led Zeppelin's "Gallows Pole," this one is all jumpy perfection with Billy Talbot's bass a subtle yet perfect complement to Young's noisy electric guitar. The well-known doo-wop tune "Get A Job" gets a good and fun read here with Crazy Horse (Talbot, drummer Ralph Molina and multi-instrumentalist Frank "Poncho" Sampedro) about as tight and still as ragged as this trio gets behind their boss.
"High Flyin' Bird" is truly scary and poignant, led by Young's guitar once again. "Jesus' Chariot," a reworked take on "She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain," features the bands' chanting vocal behind Young again. A sloppy single note lead wraps the whole thing up perfectly. A true cowboy take on "This Land Is Your Land" follows, enough to make Bruce Springsteen envious, complete with an original, oftentimes misheard and sung verse. Talbot is inspired on this here as well.
Overall, this is a noisy collection of some very old and traditional songs. At times, an interesting listen, at other times, inspired. Would I have rather gotten new and original songs from Neil Young and Crazy Horse? You bet. But when consider how prolific Neil Young is and that these guys haven't played together in quite a while, we should be happy with Americana and leave it at that.
~ Ralph Greco. Jr.