A Letter Home by Neil Young: "So archaic, it’s cutting edge"
As we've been reporting, a pretty diverse reaction to Neil Young's The Tonight Show appearance. Yes, it was unprecedented. Yes, it was pretty cool to see Neil, Jack White and Jimmy Fallon having a good time with their old/new toy.
But at the end of the day, what about the music?
Yes, what about the music? Or maybe more importantly -- what about the intent of the artist being true to his message and muse?
Well, whatever you do, don't call A Letter Home a "covers album", as Neil Young explained to Billboard:
"That's a term I really don't like, covers.From a review on Restless and Real - Words and sounds from a shrinking world | A Letter Home by Douglas Heselgrave:
That misses the point of what the record is. It's actually more of a piece of performance art. It's actual songs. It's actually the performance of a song and the essence of a song. That's what it's about."
‘A Letter Home’ is pure; there’s very little show biz involved.Thanks Doug!
Maybe the most important thing the record communicates is that with a little practice, we could all learn to play these songs. Most of them don’t have more than three chords, and almost every Canadian of a certain generation could sing them – maybe even just as well - off the top of their heads with a little reminding and encouragement. And, maybe that’s part of the point. ‘A Letter Home’ dials down the mystique of the rock star culture and puts music back where it belongs – as an expression of life, joy in a shared experience, the simple pleasures of coming together with friends and family to sing. It’s so radical that it’s simple.
To paraphrase something Young once said about another album, ‘A Letter Home’ is so archaic, it’s cutting edge. The point he’s making is not complicated. The world is out of control and part of the reason is that people won’t put away their screens and talk to each other. Embedded in its simple grooves, ‘A Letter Home’ encourages us to throw out a lot of our useless shit, get the guitar out of the attic, tune it, start humming, sing, think of all the good things in life and send a letter home.
So there you go. A Letter Home - radical in its simplicity in these bewildering complex times. Maybe not what we wanted but just what we needed.
And that's OK.