Neil Young and Crazy Horse display a broad definition of folk on Americana
The idea of old Shakey making an album of classic folk songs is kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? Americana, however, is not a folk record. It’s a Neil Young and Crazy Horse record—the first one since 2003’s Greendale—with all that entails. Essentially, it sounds like Young, bassist Billy Talbot, drummer Ralph Molina, and guitarist Frank “Poncho Sampedro set up their gear in a barn, hit Record, and started playing, mistakes and skronky six-string collisions be damned. They dial things down once in a while, as on a spare, acoustic version of “Wayfarin’ Stranger”, but for the most part Young serves up a reminder that it was his work with Crazy Horse that got him the dubious designation as the Godfather of Grunge. Hence the murder ballad “Tom Dula” (more popularly known as “Tom Dooley”), which gets stretched out past the eight-minute mark with overdriven guitar solos that aren’t in a hurry to go anywhere in particular.
Young’s notion of what constitutes folk music—and what counts as Americana, for that matter—is pretty broad. That explains why a 19th-century tune like “Clementine” is included alongside the 1950s doo-wop hit “Get a Job”. It also helps explain the presence of the indisputably British “God Save the Queen”. The justification for including that one is that its melody was later lifted for “America (My Country ’Tis of Thee)”, and that prior to the War of Independence, it was the de facto American national anthem.
It was Canada’s too, for that matter. Which leads one to wonder if Young will ever feel inclined to put together a tribute to the country of his birth. Call it Canadiana. Hell, I’ll even get him started on the track listing: “The Black Fly Song”, “Alouette”, “Land of the Silver Birch”, “Red River Valley”… Call me, Neil. We’ll hash it out together.