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Left Lane: Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Legendary band rides across the Wild Frontier

June 14, 2012
By RICH GIBSON , Times Leader

It's not out of the question, a majority of readers here were singing along to the happy refrains of "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" during those formative elementary school years.

A timeless classic, to be sure, thought to have been composed during the 1800's and said to be referencing the second coming of Jesus - 'she' referring to the chariot Jesus is arriving in.

Enter instead, Neil Young - circa 2012, who following a lengthy absence from the studio - has reunited with his legendary 60's band Crazy Horse on a new disc generating considerable buzz following its release earlier this month.

"Americana" is a collection of American folk songs, some first composed well over 100 years ago - others of a more contemporary nature.

You'll instantly recognize many tunes ("Oh Susanna" "This Land Is Your Land" "Wayfarin' Stranger" and "Clementine") as timeless standards.

Young and his band's interpretation? Well, let's just say all bets are off.

The press release for Young's 'creation' indicates what ties these songs together is the fact that while they may represent an America that may no longer exist, the emotions and scenarios behind these songs still resonate with what's going on in the country today with equal, if not greater impact nearly 200 years later.

The lyrics reflect the same concerns and are still remarkably meaningful to a society going through economic and cultural upheaval, especially during an election year.

Perhaps so, but what about the music? A complete no-brainer from the Lane's perspective. Frankly, Young and Crazy Horse sound sublime. So much so, one could mistake 'Americana' for a late 60's recording with the band defiantly hammering home Young's arrangements with their trademark irreverence and ferocity.

Prepare ye to go the grunge route early and often, blistering, for instance, the 1866-penned 'Tom Dula," better known as the Kingston Trio's much more cerebral 1960's cover, "Tom Dooley."

Here, Young and the Horse consume eight minutes having the poor boy hanged for accidentally stabbing a female acquaintance high on a mountain.

No idea why Young opted for a 1950's doo wop hit "Get A Job," one song the Lane tabbed totally out of place on this project.

He recovers nicely, however, with "High Flyin' Bird" in our opinion, the disc's finest spin and a classic rocker in all respects.

Young's ever-exceptional guitar work highlights Billy Grammer's 1958 folk gem "Travel On." Yet another unexpected delight is "Gallows Pole," a reasonably subtle account of an out-of-luck condemned man.

Personally, I prefer the late Bobby Darin's big band treatment of "Clementine," recalling an old Carolina gal who weighed 299 and caused a footbridge to collapse leading to her demise.

Young offers an alternate and according to the liner notes, original version of a song written in the 19th century.

Three or four times after spinning "Americana" and the subject matter aside, revisiting Young and Crazy Horse all these years later does nothing but confirm their status as Hall of Fame playmakers.

It's no mistake Young is considered one of the most influential singer/songwriters of his generation. More than anything, "Americana" beckons Young and Crazy Horse back to the studio for a album of original material.

DID you know? Young was born Nov. 12, 1945 in Toronto, Canada. His father, Scott Alexander Young, was a sportswriter and widely recognized as one of Canada's most respected journalists. Neil's mother was of American, French and Irish ancestry and a member of the famed "Daughters of the American Revolution."

As a child, Neil was diagnosed with diabetes and also suffered from a bout with polio in 1951. During the mid-50's, Young first began to play a plastic ukulele. He listened to Toronto's CHUM radio and formed his first band in junior high. Young later dropped out of high school and took up performing music on a regular basis.

Young's music career exploded at 21 with the formation of Buffalo Springfield whose members included Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and Dewey Martin, In 1966, the band scored a mega hit single, "For What It's Worth."

In the late 60's, Young formed Crazy Horse with members Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina (both current) and Danny Whitten. Today, Poncho Sampedro completes the band......


MISSISSIPPI-bred Paul Thorn whose live performances are memorable to say the least, plays Pittsburgh's Rex Theater this evening, an over-21 show beginning at 8:00......Friday, blues guitar giants Buddy Guy and Johnny Lang double-team it at western Pa.'s Palace Theater in Greensburg....Next Wednesday, 'Mr. Fire & Rain' James Taylor continues his U.S. Tour at the University of Pittsburgh's Petersen Events Center. Neil Young, incidentally, plays the Pete in October....

Locally, check out the Streamline Band, part of Wheeling's Waterfront Wednesday's (June 20), a free show starting at 7:30 at the Heritage Port Amphitheater.....

Gibson may be reached at rgibson@times



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