Album Review: Neil Young With Crazy Horse - Americana

18 July 2012 | 9:05 am | Lynn McDonnell

This album is not necessarily a bleak attempt at nostalgia but more a shrewd rhetoric on the current state of society.

This album has a definite element of the unexpected. Firstly, one may ask why Neil Young is releasing a new album with Crazy Horse after a decade of maintaining a long distance relationship. It sure seems a little odd. Secondly, is this a cover album of Americana folk music? Thirdly, what is this on the track-list; God Save The Queen and This Land Is Your Land? Now the unexpected is getting a little strange. Finally, Oh Susannah, the opening track, turns out to be an unbelievable cover based on the rock version by Tim Rose in the '60s, contorting the original melody almost beyond the point of recognition.

The folk sing-a-long ditties that we all know but don't know how are layered next to serious guitar riffs, reverb and undefinable grit. This grit is maintained throughout the whole album and creates a sense of honesty and simplicity in the face of over-production expectations. In fact, much of the production merely hints at the presence of a sound engineer and production studio. Wayfarin' Stranger maintains its domestic charm, not too far from the 1944 Burl Ives version upon which it is based.

The once forgotten themes of melancholy, depression and war throughout the lyrics are reinforced through the resolute musical madness of 'Horse, transforming the songs beyond nursery rhymes or skipping tunes. The reappearance of these songs and the resonance of their lyrics to the current political and economic state of North America cannot be accidental and shouldn't be ignored. This album is not necessarily a bleak attempt at nostalgia but more a shrewd rhetoric on the current state of society.