REVIEW: Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s “Americana”

Photobucket What some casual Neil Young fans want to know about this album is this? Is it any good? I think so, but I would ask fans “what’s good?” When it comes to Young, you never know what to expect, and either you ride with him or wait around until he comes up with something you enjoy. Americana (Reprise) is an album teaming him up with Crazy Horse, the first time he has done so since his great 2003 album Greendale. When Greendale was released, it seemed everyone expected to hear Rust Never Sleeps and it wasn’t that at all. But again, this is Mr. Young, and what he feels like recording and releasing, you deal with it.

Here’s the deal. Americana consists of traditional songs that have become a part of the fabric of this country, meaning the United States. It can be patriotic, it can be honorable, but all of the songs are performed with brand new arrangements so that you can truly listen to the lyrics and perhaps get a different perspective of the words. You’ll hear them tackle “Oh Susannah”, “Clementine”, “This Land Is Your Land”, “Wayfarin’ Stranger”, and “High Flyin’ Bird”. While “Gallows Pole” may be known by a generation or two as a Led Zeppelin song, its origins go much further than that and Young adds to the fabric of a folk song that continues its path into the 21st century. He even has a go at doing The Silhouettes‘ “Get A Job”, which celebrates its 55th anniversary this year and continues to be celebrated as one of the greatest songs in rock’n’roll history. The album concludes with “God Save The Queen”, which may seem like an odd choice on an album that is meant to celebrate Americana, but then again the term Americana is something that is looked upon with fondness in England. Perhaps it’s used here as a way to show how a song can continue to be sung by its residents (and its territories) with honor and respect, while one of the countries they have given a nice term for tends to not do this in a unified manner. At least that’s my take.

Musically, Americana sounds like a jam session that can go anywhere, and with a few songs going over the five minute mark, it often does. Will this be worthy of multiple listens? If you’re expecting this to sound like “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” or “A Man Needs A Maid”, perhaps not. As an album that is meant to challenge the listener as well as the material used, it’s something that deserves to be documented. I was going to say “there aren’t any anthems of this”, but I speak in a rock fashion. There is “God Save The Queen” on here, and many have often talked about “This Land Is Your Land” sounds more like an American anthem than the official song. Americana is as laid back in sound as the selection of songs suggest, very much a “baseball, hot dogs & apple pie” kind of album, but with a cranky uncle who says “now I have a story I want to tell you, you may have heard it before, but I will tell it differently.” Young is that cranky-yet-humble uncle, and we’re thankful he’s still here to dish out the stories when he has the chance.

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