Album Review: Neil Young - "Americana" - Premier Guitar
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An album review of "Americana" by Neil Young & Crazy Horse from Premier Guitar by Charles Saufley:
Complain all you want that Neil Young—easily one of the 10 greatest songwriters of the rock ’n’ roll era—hasn’t written a classic album in years. But to define late-model Young via the recorded output of the last decade is to ignore guitar and vocal performances as incendiary, confrontational, and irreverent as ever. On Americana, Young frees himself from the constraints of original material, focusing instead on the textures and raw, adrenal possibilities of his greatest band, Crazy Horse, and a fistful of American folk standards. Like so much that Young does, the concept borders on the perverse, which is precisely why it’s such a kick in the ass.
Those looking for technical sorcery and smooth production need not read further. This is Neil and the Horse at their crustiest. But it’s more than Neil’s production nihilism and antipathy toward slickness that makes this record remarkable. Young and Co. approach and reinterpret these songs with arrangements that are often revelations. Take the schoolhouse classic, “Oh Susannah,” which becomes a funky and chugging minor-key stomp rivaling the barbarism of Neil’s old ’66 Sunset Strip, fuzz-punk compatriots The Seeds. The miner tragedy, “Clementine,” is pervaded with darkness and desperation that conjures images of the protagonist as a grimy mechanic mourning the drowning of his love—“Down by the River” revisited, perhaps? Meanwhile, the classic Carolina murder ballad of Tom Dula (aka “Tom Dooley”)—blunted in the popular imagination by the Kingston Trio’s polite banjo version—is rendered tragic, brutal, and menacing on the back of Young’s wailing Deluxe and the zombie march rhythms of Crazy Horse.
Listen to Album Premiere: 'Americana' by Neil Young and Crazy Horse | Rolling Stone.