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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Comments of the Moment: Americana by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse
from album art for Americana by Neil Young & Crazy Horse
(Click photo to enlarge)

Frankly, after running Thrasher's Wheat for over 15 years and almost a lifetime of listening to Neil Young's music, there are two things which we have found universal: 1) Neil never ceases to surprise, amaze, and confound us and 2) Neil fans never cease to surprise, amaze, and confound us.

So quite a reaction thus far to an album that no one has heard yet -- out side the Ranch crowd.

And -- based on the enlightening liner notes for Americana by Neil Young & Crazy Horse -- Neil fans are all over the map in their anticipation of the new album being released in June.

First, a somewhat typical comment from the naysayers and doubters crowd by karate-chop yoda:
Neil wouldn't be making albums with a children's choir if he had a friend who could tell him when he's pissing in the wind.

Children's choir = no redeeming musical value.

Just not good. I won't be buying this album. What a waste of a good band.

Naturally, that's the sort of comment that can get Neil fans -- shall we say -- spooked.

A comment from Sandy H.:
I live in the Ozarks. The "passing down" of folk music is a time-honored tradition here. It is a way of life and a demonstration of respect. It is especially cool to hear these traditional songs infused with a more "modern" interpretation.

The songs are therefore timeless.

Each new generation is made aware of the existence of this music, which otherwise might be lost. I am beside myself with anticipation of this record. After hearing "Old Susannah", I was completely stunned, shell shocked.

I can't believe there are still NY fans who are surprised at the fact that he is willing to take a completely unexpected turn.

Your loss.

A comment from BIGCHIEF:
Sandy, thank you for the thought provoking, open minded post which is quite a departure from what I've been hearing of late from people who have already drawn conclusions of what this record is going to sound like based on an album cover and a song list.

This recording has generated more controversy based on such limited information then any other NY record at this stage of release. People are so hungry for what their own perceptions of the perfect Crazy Horse record should sound like that they are setting themselves up for a major disappointment, guaranteed!

This will not be 'Zuma' revisited nor will it be 'Rust Never Sleeps' or EBKTIN.

Would the feedback drenched Crazy Horse fans feel any better about this record had he recorded it with the 'Oak Ridge Boys'? Such a limited memory we have when we consider how diverse Crazy Horse can be. Look at the difference the sound is on 'Lotta Love' from Comes A time' compared to the same laid back 'mountain' version on 'Year of the Horse'.

As a follower of Neil's career and his many diverse styles through the years, it shouldn't be a big surprise that Neil would choose a new path while delivering some 'old' songs. The fact that they are all covers not penned by Neil himself should also not be that big of a stretch.

This is a 'concept album' in the purist sense of the word. And then to be accused of social injustice, bigotry, racism, gender inequity, and violence by an individual who claims to be a 'fan' and gets it? That individuals Neil cred got revealed for what it is based on those comments.

This isn't going to be the record that epitomizes Crazy Horses return to greatness. They've always been great. With Neil at the reigns, the Horse is capable of taking Neil where he want's to go. However, you wont recognize 'Like A Hurricane' or 'Powderfinger'. That was a different time. This is now and in the 'big picture', this record will be just as significant in Neil's cannon of artistic expression as the others.

Just keep in mind, it took nearly 30 years for TTN to be appreciated for it's artistic relevance between EKTIN and Zuma. At least wait until you hear the songs until you draw any conclusions. Trust me, at this stage of his career, I highly doubt if this negative reaction based on a list of unheard songs is going to cause Neil to shelve the record and go into seclusion.

All of Neil's records through out his career had elements of 'Americana' influence and roots. I think Eddie Vedder may have said it best during his speech while inducting Neil into the R&R Hall Of Fame when he quoted a description of Neil's music as 'Mountain Funk'. 'Running Dry', 'Cripple Creek Ferry', 'Human Highway', to list a few of Neil penned Americana rooted songs.

This record is merely a concept Album in it's purist form of a collection of songs that best represent the spirit of the genre. The fact that this will resonate with such a diverse audience could introduce our hero to a whole new generation of listeners which in itself isn't a bad thing. Trust me, those of you who are hungry for 'Zuma II' will have your day. Remember the impact that Hendrix's 'Star Spangled Banner' had on the music world at that time.


A comment from Mr Henry:
I'll bet anything that Neil is getting a real charge out of all the consternation and conversation this new/old/new music is stirring up. Can't you just see him reading some of the comments and getting that funny smile?!

Another reason to kind of long for those good old days, back when you just bought the album and listened to it. But it is cool to know about this all ahead of time, and you can't put the genie back etc.

I am very psyched to hear this music and to hopefully hear some of it played live. Kind of Neil's version of the Harry Smith Anthology, with Crazy Horse as his band of choice. I'm sure that Harry would approve.

Liner notes are cool and should cause many to search further into the deep well of American music. Interesting mention of This Land Is Your Land and the "pre-existing melody" that Woody borrowed. It's from When The World's On Fire which is a Carter Family song. I always found it interesting that Woody took a song about end times redemption and used the melody to create a new national anthem.

The thought also occurred to me that Neil is going back further into the past, for both him and the music. And it is similar to what Dylan did and continues to do as he rediscovers and rejuvenates old music with new and new music with old.

So let's all just enjoy the new Spring and hope to see the tour date announcements that should be coming soon.

And I'll try somehow to get over my disappointment that no Dock Boggs songs were covered...maybe Americana II? I'll start working on the set list now....

Thanks Sandy, Big Chief, & Mr Henry for your comments.

As we said at the top, Neil fans never cease to amaze, delight and bring us joy.

For us, this looks to be another chapter in the journey thru the past.

We go forwards by looking back. With Americana, Neil has gone back to early Horse, early Stephen & early Squires.

It's all fascinating to watch unfold and we're just happy to be along for the ride.


Labels: , ,


At 3/25/2012 09:45:00 AM, Blogger BecauseSoundMatters said...

Excitement all over!

There were a lot of comments about the selection of songs last week. Most songs are really familiar to residents of the US of A and Canada. Over here in the People's Republic of Europe we didn't grow up with most of the songs like Americans did. I bet some NY fans over here maybe did hear some of the songs ones or twice in their lives. I did know Tom Dula and Clementine as a kid but even a song like This Land Is Your Land did get in to my life only 15 years ago. So, it's different for us and as a music lover I allways like to learn and hear something I didn't know.

It was fun to read all the posts from naysayers. Specially because all the naysayers from the past were most of the time pissed because Neil did not bring on the Horse. How to please your fans.

Thrasher, are you sure that is Geronimo in the picture on top of this page? I thought it was a picture of that other indian. What's his's on the tip of my tongue... humm... you know it...

At 3/25/2012 09:57:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks BSM!

Good points. Altho we'd say that many, many Americans are unfamiliar with these "folk songs".

As for the drawing?! doh

Our assumption was that if Geronimo is on the cover (altho hidden), this would be him on the reverse. As far as we know, Crazy Horse never allowed a photo of him to be taken.

This is a sketch of Crazy Horse, made in 1934 by a Mormon missionary after interviewing Crazy Horse's sister. She said it was accurate.

At 3/25/2012 11:46:00 AM, Blogger GRC said...

When will people learn to just expect the unexpected with Neil. This is what makes Neil, Neil. He is driving the car down this road, we go where he takes us. Accept it and enjoy the ride.

At 3/25/2012 12:11:00 PM, Blogger The Loner said...

Wasn't the last time Neil used a choir "Living with War" .....

At 3/25/2012 12:36:00 PM, Blogger Thos said...

Nope, it was on 'The Way' from Chrome Dreams II. Children's choir too.


At 3/25/2012 02:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has been the most enjoyable week I've ever had reading some of these posts concerning NY & CH's new album 'Americana'. It's been so refreshing. Thanks to All you fans out there.All is not lost.

At 3/25/2012 03:31:00 PM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

I'll admit that I'm a little reluctant to accept the concept of the 'children's choir' in the mix on these songs. It's just a matter of taste on my part but once again, how can I be so critical when I haven't heard them yet? I suppose maybe from past experience from 'Living With War, Touch The Night, The Way, etc. Hopefully it's just one or two selections that the choir is used. Until then, I'll try to be 'open minded' and draw my conclusions after I've heard them.

At 3/25/2012 05:01:00 PM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

On Chief crazy Horses reluctance to have his photo taken, wasn't he the one who believed that the act of having a photo taken stole your soul?

At 3/25/2012 06:34:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 3/25/2012 06:34:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Comments from Sandy and Big Chief were so honor to be in such company. Thanks!

"When you see the kingdom spread upon the earth, the old way of living is annihilated. That is the end of the world. The end of the world is not an event to come, it is an event of psychologoical transformation, of visionary transformation. You see not the world of solid things but a world of radiance."
--Joseph Campbell
The Power of Myth

At 3/25/2012 08:39:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

What has me really surprised is how Neil never runs out of ways to surprise ... you'd think after 50 years of surprises they'd run out but truly as much as I've learned to expect (and love) the unexpected I never cease to be amazed by what the unexpected turns out to be. That said, what always surprises me the most is all the bitchin' and moanin' when these new projects come out ... isn't this exactly what he's been doing all these years? Also, the Horseback then Americana was a bit of a head fake as Horseback was more like the Horse we know and love, but granted with a twist, and Americana seems like a curve ball that only Neil can throw ... I for one as sitting back excitedly waiting to see what Uncle Neil has in store for us this go around and just hoping we get a summer or fall tour ... but hey, a new autobiography, Americana, Trunk Show, maybe Archives II sometime in the next few years ... all I can say is that its a great privilege to be along for this ride ... and one more thing ... I STILL can't stop listening to Le Noise ... seriously think it ranks up there with his best work... been following Neil since the 70s and he gets cooler and more relevant every year ...

At 3/25/2012 09:39:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 3/26/2012 12:24:00 AM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

Thank You Mr. Henry for your kind comments on behalf of myself and Sandy I'm sure. You know, it always seemed to me that the beauty of the whole concept of Neil Young and Crazy Horse was that the realness of their music is likened unto stripping off the paint and varnish and revealing the true 'RUST' that awaits you beneath the facade. Some folks prefer the 'patina' over the gloss of fakers out there, whether it be in the 'over produced' recordings or 'over philosophied' ramblings of opinions. I always equated 'integrity and truth' with Neil Young.

At 3/26/2012 09:28:00 AM, Blogger peter d. said...


... uhmmm, is it your album coming out next june or did Neil miss the opportunity to ask you to help aiming his concept in the right direction?

At 3/26/2012 10:30:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Big Chief, As you said, the lacking in information and the cutting and pasting is exactly the point.

I'm not speaking about a difference in philosophical, religious, or political views. Some of the "Americana" songs serve as historical documents about our past -- a piece of the "rosetta stone" revealing an important aspect of Americana.

There is is only one direction in getting the concept right about Americana. Either you repeat the whitewash or you celebrate how we overcame great adversity in our struggle as a nation and how it continues to challenge us about the way we think about the past and what we write about our American history.

Of course Neil isn't celebrating blackface and minstrel songs that created huge obstacles for a group of people who were just coming into their economic mobility.

But if you're going to sing "Oh Susanna" on an album celebrating "Americana" there is an obligation to be be truthful about it's "Americana" origins. Otherwise, you are cutting and pasting an important aspect of our Americana out of American history.

At 3/26/2012 11:07:00 AM, Blogger BecauseSoundMatters said...

"Crazy Horse did not like white men because they encroached upon his beloved wide-open prairie. He detested their developments that chased away the buffalo his people depende on for food and clothing."

The times they are changing.
In 2012 Crazy Horse chased away the Buffalo...

At 3/26/2012 01:49:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

BSM? Oh you see the lampoon, too? sort of like "Life on Brian vs. Life of Crazyhorse."

Although I think Crazy Horse would have made an exception about Neil Young & his band singing that one song about killing his people in their tipis and cutting their women down, and leaving a few babies lying on the ground butchered because at least someone took the time to get the story right about how many of people who lived on the Plains met their ends.

At 3/26/2012 01:54:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Oh now I get it. They cut out Geronimo because he wasn't part of that ragtag group of Apache buffalo hunters. ((Just kidding, folks. I know it wasn't intentional.))

At 3/26/2012 02:26:00 PM, Blogger BecauseSoundMatters said...

Yeah Mother, I was only thinking about Richie Furay and his Buffalo for a brief moment.

At 3/26/2012 02:53:00 PM, Blogger BecauseSoundMatters said...

Well, since a lot of us are unfamiliar with the songs let's listen to the complete Americana album:

1. Oh, Susannah – The Big 3

2. Maybe it's better to play these two versions at the same time to experience what we might get from Neil.

2a. Clementine 
– The Sweptaways

2b. Clementine
 – Babyshambles

3. Tom Dula
 – Grayson and Whitter

4. Gallows Pole 
– Odetta

5. Get A Job 
– The Silhouettes

6. Travel On 
– Billy Grammer

7. High Flyin’ Bird 
– Billy Edd Wheeler

8. This is a super great version.
Jesus’ Chariot (She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain) – Parliament Funkadelic

9. This Land Is Your Land – Woody Guthrie

10. Wayfarin’ Stranger
– Burl Ives

11. My Country Tis Of Thee – Crosby, Stills & Nash

Most of these songs/artists refer to the liner notes by Neil. Exceptions are 2, 8 and 11.
Have fun and peace!

At 3/26/2012 03:05:00 PM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

Good One, 'B.S.M.'s!

At 3/26/2012 06:55:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks BSM! Lots of Americana to check out.

At 3/26/2012 07:24:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

So what makes these songs examples of Americana? Because they were sung by Americans and written in America? Is that all?

Are we gonna whitewash Sid's violent past before we can talk about the influence he had in We gonna whitewash the substance abuse that pretty much dominated the rock scene for at least several generations?

What makes these songs part of our Americana tradition?

At 3/26/2012 08:00:00 PM, Blogger Sandy Horne said...

@MNOTR "So what makes these songs examples of Americana? Because they were sung by Americans and written in America?"

Um, maybe I am not as enlightened and intelligent as you are, but that sort of sounds like the definition to me....

At 3/26/2012 09:35:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

Dear Uncle Neil, please in the future do not write or record anything I won't understand, or anything I won't get the meaning of. I am just a simpleton fan and to stupid to relate to your overpowering sense of arcane wisdom. I hope you will do 16 versions of Heart of Gold on your next album. Anything else will completely turn me away, especially if you are having fun and doing what you want to and feel led to do. Please, don't let me down. By the way, did you hear the new Britney Spears? I think she did it again, ooops.

At 3/26/2012 10:22:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

Thanks for the links!
Aside from that of Woodie himself the best version of 'This Land' I've ever heard is by Los Lobos, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir performed in a parking lot on the 4th of July 1989. Here's the link:

At 3/26/2012 10:57:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

, Odetta's version of gallows pole sends a chill down my back. Even if you never opened a history book or saw a photograph, her singing speaks for the injustice and inhumanity. It doesn't require any intelligence to feel that pain and loss.

At 3/27/2012 04:09:00 AM, Blogger BecauseSoundMatters said...

Neil is doing Odetta's version of Gallows Pole.
I didn't know her version. Most of us are familiar with the Zeppelin version from Led Zep 3 that comes from Leadbelly.

Gallows Pole – Led Zeppelin

Gallows Pole – Leadbelly

At 3/27/2012 07:45:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

The songs origins tells us about this system of paying up or face execution which was commonplace during the Middle Ages. What makes this song unique to Americana folk is when Lead Belly and Odetta sing it as an oral history of terrorizing people treated as inferiors for a very long time.

At 3/27/2012 07:52:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Odetta and Leadbelly as children grew up with that terror that if they even spoke to a white person they would be punished. Watching mothers and sisters begging to let their father or husband after being lynched from their home was all too much part of their reality.

At 3/27/2012 07:58:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

A few items from the national news wire-
Thrasher's Wheat named "Most Boring Internet Discussion Forum" in national poll

Neil Young repudiates fan forum, advertises for someone who has ever heard of rock n roll to start new forum.

Crazy Horse renames themselves "Middle Class White Guys" in the hope that Mother Nature on the Run will just stop talking.
Pinto(or Flounder)

At 3/27/2012 08:00:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...


I'm not trying to guilt trip anyone here or make a political statement. I'm simply stating a few facts about the songs origins. It's part of our history. It's what makes us Americans instead of British and French or African.

At 3/27/2012 08:03:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 3/27/2012 08:34:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 3/27/2012 09:29:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@everyone - thanks for keeping life interesting. Can't wait for album release and things to quiet back down.

@SONY - excellent. Don't be surprised if you see that on April 1st.

@Pinto(or Flounder) - Thanks for highlighting our award for "Most Boring Internet Discussion Forum".

We'll strive hard to make sure we retain our distinction next year.


At 3/27/2012 09:34:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@MNOTR - Will you be a co-acceptor of our "Most Boring Internet Discussion Forum" award?

Seriously tho, your opinions here have been -- how shall we say -- a bit controversial lately.

Not that we have a problem with that per se. We haven't really ventured into this too deeply mainly because we thought we'd just wait until June when things are at a fever pitch.

For anyone just tuning in, it can be very hard to figure out what's going on here. Would you consider trying to concisely write your opinion of Americana?

What the problem is and what the solution is?


At 3/27/2012 10:13:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 3/27/2012 03:11:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@MNOTR - Thank you for the clarification.

Again, not sure if or when we'll try and delve into this.

But if we do, we'll use this as a reference.


At 3/27/2012 05:04:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Thrash
Just having fun, you know.
Love you

At 3/28/2012 05:03:00 PM, Blogger Dmitri Karamazov said...

Neil Young can kick my a$s all around the block if he wants to. I'll buy anything/everything with his name on it. NEIL YOUNG = MARK OF QUALITY

"Bumper stickers should be issued!!!"

At 3/28/2012 09:06:00 PM, Blogger asg said...

so there won't be a Shocking Pinks reunion after all? rats...


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