Neil Young & Crazy Horse Americana

Neil Young & Crazy HorseAmericana
Neil Young hasn't made an album with Crazy Horse (Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina and Frank Sampedro) in nine years. Did you miss them? Like taking an old jacket from the closet to replace new vintage duds, it's a bit redundant. The degree of sonic distance between latest collaboration Americana and, say, Living With War (2006), the best of eight solo albums Young has released this past decade, is pretty thin. If anything, it works against the album's format: nine takes on old-time standards (with the doo-wop classic "Get a Job" and a version of "God Save the Queen," for some reason) that don't cry out for guitar feedback and loosey goosey jam band performance. While the sound of this is pretty uniform the quality is all over the place and very dependent on the song being covered. "Clementine," a tune usually performed as a hushed lullaby, sounds ridiculous when given Young's proto-grunge makeover. Alternately, 19th-century murder ballad "Tom Dula" suits such a makeover perfectly. Ditto "Gallows Pole," which most of you will remember for its appearance on Zeppelin III. Somewhere in the middle lies Woody Guthrie's "This Land is My Land"; Young and Crazy Horse don't do much with it, but don't exactly ruin it either. Finally, with "Wayfarin' Stranger," the band are pulled back for an appropriately ominous acoustic performance. It's the best track; it's the only one that feels like a true homage to the DNA of folk music, not just a bunch of veterans killing an afternoon. (Warner)