You can’t keep Neil Young away from the studio, no matter how hard you try. So, the best thing to do is get out of the way and let the man have at it. Having issued the live Earth with Promise of the Real and booked for the Desert Trip festival, you’d think Young would take the rest of 2016 off. Instead, he got randy and put together 10 songs, brought in drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Paul Bushnell, went into Rick Rubin's Shangri-la Studios, and laid down tracks for Peace Trail, an album ripe with politics and humanity, many referencing the Standing Rock protests, the environment, oil and water, sparse and minimal in production and presentation. In other words, classic Neil Young.
Many of the songs on Peace Trail were played during Young’s fall shows in California, including Desert Trip. Where Promise of the Real did a lot of heavy lifting with this material, Young, Keltner and Bushnell’s attack is more basic, adding an intimate dynamic to the arrangements. Listen to Keltner’s scrubbing drums on “Indian Givers,” and you’ll understand why he’s one of the most in-demand session drummers in the history of rock and roll. After a while, you even begin to appreciate the simplicity of “Show Me,” “Texas Rangers” and “John Oaks,” along with the quirkiness of “My Pledge” and “My New Robot,” Which Young proudly states he bought off “Amazon.com.” I remember seeing Young perform “Terrorist Suicide Hang Gliders” in Pomona two days before his second Desert Trip appearance. It had all the ingredients of everything that people like about Neil Young. On Peace Trail, it’s a little different. That’s exactly what I like about Neil Young.~ Shawn Perry