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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Comment of the Moment: Some Thoughts on Americana Songs

With two songs from Americana by Neil Young & Crazy Horse out now ("Oh Susannah" and "Jesus' Chariot" (She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain), the opinions are starting to roll in.

From a comment on Some Thoughts on New Video "Oh Susannah" by D. I. Kertis:
Judging from that video footage, Neil is not romanticizing the past here--which, you know, does fit with the whole concept he mentioned about highlighting the similarities between America's problems when these songs were first played and the ones we're facing now. I have to admit that the smoking kid makes me squirm a bit, but it's definitely best not whitewashed over.

Musically, I have only good things to say about the songs I've heard so far from 'Americana', though I'm actually even more interested to hear Neil and the Horse's takes on 'Gallows Pole', 'This Land is Your Land', and 'Tom Dula'. After hearing 'Jesus' Chariot', I suspect 'Clementine' should be interesting as well, and 'God Save the Queen', especially after all the (in my opinion) unwarranted brouhaha about its appearance on the track list.

I've actually gotten to be more and more interested in folk music as time goes on. When I say folk music, I don't just mean the American, either. I think it has a lot to do with the notion of it having been created by people in a pre-mass media age, trying to amuse themselves. So they had to be more creative themselves, because they couldn't just access other people's art and entertainment so easily like we can today.

If you listen to folk songs not just from America but from European history as well, they have their unique conventions and forms, signs that they were originated by every day people, not "artists" in the sense that we often think of them today. My fascination is also partly because this is music of the people: commonly owned art. Many of the songs on 'Americana' we all take for granted the right to perform again and again, to come up with our own variations/evolutions of per the folk process. It is lovely to think there is art and music that a whole community (the whole human community, really) can own and have creative domain over, that we can share and each take our own angle on.

Folk music, at some level, seems to represent such a free spirit of art and creativity, and can be incredibly culturally and historically rich. Because these were often songs written by or from the perspectives of everyday people, they tend still to resonate with the common man even today.

Especially in songs with universally applicable ideals or messages, there is a great potential for music (or art of any kind) to bring people together, bring about sharing, cooperation, potentially sparking even more creativity and art.

Thanks D. I.! Yes, music & art bringing people together is something we need more of right now.

More on Americana by Neil Young & Crazy Horse and the music videos for the songs ("Oh Susannah" and "Jesus' Chariot" (She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain).


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9 Comments:

At 5/13/2012 05:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Premier Guitar magazine's review of 'Americana':

http://www.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2012/Jun/Album_Review_Neil_Young_Americana.aspx

 
At 5/13/2012 06:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

R.I.P Duck Dunn

 
At 5/13/2012 09:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be the first to say that I was skeptical about the Americana concept, perhaps mostly out of frustration that we're not receiving original songs from NY & CH. But I have to say that what I've heard so far is pretty remarkable. At bottom, it's all about the Crazy Horse sound. Put these guys all together and they just catch fire. There is something so raw and primal in their sound, yet ultimately very engaging and accessible. They make these two songs sound effortlessly rocking, irresistibly so. I can only pray that they all get together and crank out some new tunes -- because right now they sound better than ever.

And I'm a notorious crank when it comes to these things!

-Big Old Rig

 
At 5/13/2012 11:42:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

"I like music that's more offensive. I like it to sound like nails on a blackboard, get me wild."
--Iggy Pop

 
At 5/14/2012 03:48:00 AM, Blogger peter d. said...

Part of the concept behind 'Americana' is that it's the counterpart of all these 'The Voice of ...(whatever country)' and '(another country) has talent' SHIT that has been pouring out from all media these days.

There's a whole generation growing up watching or participating in these shows and being taught this is what music is all about: trying to copy somebody else and in the meantime show off your skills, only to become a star, and eventually while time flies by fall down and die... For the turnstiles...

And here's Neil using his voice and his media to remember us it's completely different.

So everybody: go and make your own version and participate in a REAL musical contest! Bet my head off Neil's gonna vote for purity and nothing else.

Great musician. Great man. The real thing. All we need is love.

 
At 5/14/2012 01:15:00 PM, Blogger MARIAN M. said...

Thrasher:

In the age of cover bands, albums of covers of classic songs, etc., how wonderful that Neil is making this wonderful music totally new and fresh and putting his wonderful "stamp" on it.

After hearing these two (2) songs, I just can't wait for the album...but I have to!

Music is love!

Marian M.

 
At 5/14/2012 04:40:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

...and with the Horse he's also putting his wonderul Stomp on the music as well. The American and World Standard Song Book is a huge and wonderful work, with chapter upon chapter to explore or ignore. We all have the chance to make them our own by giving them to others. Thanks Neil for the remembering!


To do then now would be Retro. To do then then was very Nowtro....
--Mark Shubb (Michael McKean)
A Mighty Wind

 
At 5/15/2012 06:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy, I just don't know. Been listening to Neil and The Horse as long as anybody, and I was really looking forward to this, but it just isn't working for me. Yep, it's the grungy Horse - just the way I like 'em - but the choice of songs ends up sounding like a parody to me. Coupled with the fact that I haven't LOVED a Neil album since Silver & Gold...I'm keeping hope alive. That's all I can do.

 
At 5/16/2012 10:08:00 AM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

I loved Oh Susannah. I thought it was way cool.

But Jesus' Chariot takes it to a whole other level. It's a work of unbridled fury and unparalleled genius. It transcends even the average Neil Young song. It amazes me that a reinterpreted Americana song could be the one that finally sweeps me off my feet and takes me on a harrowing sonic cruise through time and space.

It's the best single performance I've heard from Neil Young & Crazy Horse since ... I don't know, maybe something off Sleeps with Angels. Maybe even as far back as Ragged Glory. Maybe further back than that.

I really wasn't expecting my hair to stand on end and eyes to bug out when I heard this new song. I WAS expecting to dig it, but this is something else entirely.

 

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