Americana: As Told by Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band w/
Arcade Fire, Tom Morello, Alejandro Escovedo, and more.
The Moody Theater, Austin, TX - SXSW 2012 - March 15, 2012
Quite a bit of commentary on the upcoming album Americana by Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Already. And release not set until June.
So could folks be most excited about the first full album recording by Neil Young & Crazy Horse in about 10 years?
Of course not.
Which reminds us of 2006 when Bruce Springsteen released We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. On The Seeger Sessions, Springsteen covers songs by "Americana folk music" icon Pete Seeger.
Here's how blog critic and author of the upcoming Neil Young FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Iconic and Mercurial Rocker Glen Boyd put it at the time (The Seeger Sessions? Say It Aint So Bruce - Blogcritics Music):
So The Seeger Sessions is finally out.
The album that has been front and center in the hearts and minds of Bruce Springsteen fans ever since it was first announced last February was finally released Tuesday. The debate among both fans and critics about this record has been an often intense one in the days between that announcement and yesterday's release.
Boyd went on to site a few grumblings such as not putting the E St. Band to its best use and calling it "something of a vanity project for Bruce... like the sort of thing Elvis Costello did with the Brodsky Quartet."
Since the time of the earliest rumblings of a new album of Bruce "Americana folk music" covers in 2006, critic Boyd and most of the Bruce fan naysayers quickly came around on the The Seeger Sessions and recognized the boldness and exuberant recklessness of Bruce's interpretations of Pete Seeger's rebel folk.
And so here we are.
In the video above with Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (and many, many others) covering Woody Guthrie's Americana classic "This Land Is Your Land" at SXSW 2012 Festival, we see a modern day American icon interpret what really was -- and still is -- a radical protest song. Guthrie saw an America in the crisis of the 1930's Dust Bowl era during the Great Depression, where the wealthy ruling elite could care less about the millions of starving, suffering poor folks.
Americana by Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Now along comes the soon to be released album by Neil Young & Crazy Horse of "Americana folk music" titled -- appropriately enough -- Americana.
Like Bruce above, Neil Young's newest album will also cover Woody Guthrie's Americana classic "This Land Is Your Land" . From the liner notes for Americana by Neil Young & Crazy Horse:
This Land Is Your Land
This folk song was written by Woody Guthrie in the 1940s to a pre-existing melody as a response to “God Bless America” which Guthrie was tired of hearing. The lyrics Guthrie sang varied over time, but the lyrics sung in the Americana version were in the original manuscript of the song.
As noted in the liner notes, "This Land Is Your Land" was written in response to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" -- but not necessarily just because he was "tired of hearing" -- but more due to the hypocrisy of the ruling wealthy elites.
As I went walking, I saw a sign there,
And on the sign there, It said "no trespassing." [In another version, the sign reads "Private Property"]
But on the other side, it didn't say nothing!
That side was made for you and me.
In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I'd seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?
So far, so good, right? What could go wrong?
Well, it would seem in the eyes and ears of some Neil Young fans, what Neil is about to embark on is a big misguided desecration -- sort of like Bruce Springsteen with Seeger Sessions.
Here's how some of the fan commentary on the upcoming album Americana is going. Questions of authenticity, legitimacy, historical accuracy, political tone-deafness and unspoken social ramifications, and so on.
All subjects which should be up for debate.
And maybe that's why Bruce covered Pete and Neil is covering many great, classic "Americana folk music" songs? To spark a big, giant debate on where Americana is coming from and going? What could be more healthy and apropos?
So -- in conclusion -- just as critic Glen Boyd went out on a limb and pre-judged Springsteen's Seeger Sessions and turned out to be happily mistaken, we'll go out out on a limb and pre-judge Neil Young's Americana. Might Americana be the album Neil wished he released in 2006 instead of Living With War?
We can only imagine Neil and The Horse stompin' thru Woody's Americana classic "This Land Is Your Land" and totally -- yet respectfully -- shreddin' it.
We await the June 5 release... eagerly.
In the meantime, a happy 100th birthday to Oklahoma's favorite son, Woody!
Woody Guthrie - "This Land Is Your Land"
ps - What Would Woody Do? (Hint: Occupy the Music)