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Friday, March 23, 2012

Liner Notes for Americana by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Americana by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

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

Well, here's some more fodder for the naysayers and doubters to munch on.

Liner notes for Americana by Neil Young & Crazy Horse:

Oh, Susannah

This song written by Stephen Foster was originally performed on September 11, 1847. The Americana version was arranged with a new melody by Tim Rose and was originally performed by The Big Three in 1963, and updated by Tim Rose and the Thorns in 1964. This band did a lot of arrangements of folk songs that were changed to be rock and roll songs and called folk-rock. Tim Rose was one of the pioneers of folk- rock. Much of the music of Americana is based on this idea.


This American folk ballad is believed to be based on “Down By The River Liv’d a Maiden” by H.S. Thompson 1863. However, it is usually credited to Percy Montrose, 1884 or Barker Bradford from about the same period. The Americana arrangement extends the folk process, using many of the original words and a new melody. The song tells the story of either a bereaved lover recalling his lost sweetheart, or a father missing his lost daughter. In both cases the daughter has drowned in an accident. The song is now famous as an American children’s song. The verse about Clementine’s sister has been omitted from most children’s versions. This verse has different meanings depending on whether the point of view of the singer is taken as the lover or the father.

Tom Dula

This folk song, writer unknown, is based on the 1866 murder of a woman named Laura Foster, who was stabbed to death with a knife in Wilkes County, North Carolina. Tom Dula, a confederate soldier returned from the war and Laura Foster's lover, was convicted of her murder and hanged May 1, 1868. Grayson, mentioned in the song, was instrumental in supplying information to the posse that eventually found Dula. Dula had another lover, prior to his leaving for the war, named Anne Melton. It was her comments that led to the discovery of Foster’s body. She was charged with murder but was acquitted based on Dula’s word. Dula’s last statement on the gallows was “Gentlemen, do you see this hand? I didn’t harm a hair on the girl’s head.” Anne Melton died insane a few years later. The Americana arrangement is from The Squires with a new melody and the original lyrics.

Gallows Pole

This centuries-old folk song, writer unknown, probably originates in Finland. It is about a woman condemned to die and telling the hangman to wait because someone was coming to rescue her with either money (gold) or information proving her innocence. The folk process enhanced this over the years and it has had many interpretations. The Americana arrangement, which assumes the condemned is a man, is based on Odetta’s interpretation, now an enduring American folk classic.

Get A Job

A song about a man who has not been able to find work, and is assumed lazy and a liar by his woman, “Get A Job” is included in Americana because it is a genuine folk song with all of the true characteristics. This song was written by Richard Lewis of the Silhouettes, although credit is shared with the whole group because they did the vocal arrangement. The hit recording performed by The Silhouettes was released in 1957. The Americana version follows the original arrangement.

Travel On

“Gotta Travel On”, adapted by Paul Clayton and others from a British folk tune, was recorded by Billy Grammer in 1958. His version is an American classic. The song tells of a man who has to keep moving for a variety of reasons, all common with American life. The Americana arrangement is based on Billy Grammer’s version with some lyric changes.

High Flyin’ Bird

Written by Billy Edd Wheeler, this is a folk song performed by The Company in 1964. Stephen Stills was the lead singer. The song is about freedom, life and death. The Americana arrangement is based on The Squires’ 1964 version.

Jesus’ Chariot (She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain)

Written in the 1800s based on an old Negro spiritual, this song refers to the second coming of Jesus and “she” is the chariot Jesus is coming on. Some interpret this as the end of the world. Others have said that “she” refers to union organizer Mary Harris “Mother” Jones going to promote formation of labor unions in the Appalachian coal mining camps. The Americana arrangement continues the folk process with a new melody, a new title and a combination of lyric sources.

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.

Wayfarin’ Stranger

This 19th century folk song is about a soul traveling through life, perhaps envisioning the end approaching. The Americana arrangement is influenced by the Burl Ives 1944 recording, with the same words and melody.

God Save The Queen

Written in the 18th century with possible melodic roots in the 17th century, this anthem has been sung throughout the British Commonwealth and may have been sung in North America before the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence in 1776, which rejected British sovereignty. The Americana arrangement draws from the original melody and changes some melody and lyrics in the folk process, also adding lyrics of the same melody taken from “My Country ’Tis Of Thee”, in recognition of the war of Independence and America’s transition to freedom.

Also, More Developments on New Album Americana by Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

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At 3/23/2012 11:37:00 AM, Blogger wardo said...

I would imagine that even the already-naysayers won't change their minds based on those notes. Nonetheless, I find them fascinating, and I'm looking forward to at least hearing the album when it emerges. Who knows -- it may even be pretty good. Long may he run.

At 3/23/2012 03:29:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@Raincheck - interesting point.

yes, the journey thru the past continues.

Neil has gone back to early Horse, early Stephen & the Squires.

Next he'll be playing ukelele. ;)

fascinating to watch unfold.

At 3/23/2012 04:31:00 PM, Blogger said...

Neil and the Horse WITH Stephen? Oh, now you're talkin! I'm in.....always will be.

At 3/23/2012 05:05:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@WBKM - just to clarify, in liner notes for "High Flyin’ Bird", Neil writes "The Company in 1964. Stephen Stills was the lead singer."

So, no Stills on Americana... except in spirit.

At 3/23/2012 07:01:00 PM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

I am very much looking forward to this, and can't wait to hear NY&CH's arrangements of these songs. Nice liner notes.

People are already bitching, without even hearing a single note from the album?

Jeez, there sure are some ignorant, closed-minded Neil fans out there, that much is for sure. I popped into the Rust list for a quick read, and saw some notes about people going into flailing fits of ridiculous whining about not getting what they want or some-such, without having even HEARD ANYTHING. What kind of craziness is that???

I mean, complain if you don't like something, sure, but at least give it a fair shake first. My God, people.

I am so happy that Neil and the Horse are still around, and will always treasure their continued artistic explorations.

At 3/23/2012 08:42:00 PM, Blogger Sandy Horne said...

First, thank you Thrasher for all your work and dedication.

Second, Matt, as always, I love your posts!!

Third, 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 existance of this music, which otherwise might be lost. I am beside myself with antisipation 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.

At 3/23/2012 08:46:00 PM, Blogger Raincheck said...

I read Stills sings on This Land, along with Pegi

At 3/23/2012 08:51:00 PM, Blogger Greg said...

I cannot wait to hear this! Very exciting new release. Thank you Neil!

At 3/23/2012 09:39:00 PM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

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 epitomises 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.

At 3/23/2012 10:01:00 PM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

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. Americana?

At 3/24/2012 07:30:00 AM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

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....

At 3/25/2012 01:25:00 AM, Blogger Raincheck said...

It's an interesting set list. It will either work or it won't. How do you claim Clementine after Huckleberry Hound's definitive version?

Nothing matters but the music an none of us have heard it. Until then it's all just BS. Walk On.

At 3/25/2012 07:47:00 AM, Blogger Johnny Bacardi said...

Guess this is the one he didn't get around to doing in the 80's.


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