NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t


Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s latest project — their first together in nine years — is an album featuring American folk songs and the tunes many of us learned as children, performed with grit, wit and a whole lot of electric guitar. Americana is a wild journey through the classic American songbook, featuring songs like “Oh, Susanna,” “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” and “Clementine” reinterpreted in a folk-rock style. Young tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross that he got the idea for the album while working on a book about his life. Thinking about his childhood reminded him of visiting a nightclub in Ontario as a teenager; there he saw bands like The Company and The Thorns play sets. “The Thorns did ‘Oh, Susannah’ and they did [a new] arrangement of it, which I was knocked out by,” he says. “They were pioneers at the beginning of the folk-rock era.” Young copped The Thorns’ arrangement of “Oh, Susannah” and The Company’s version of “High Flying Bird” for his own band at the time, which was called The Squires. Both arrangements appear on Americana, which also features the original lyrics to songs such as “Clementine” and “This Land Is Your Land.” “[When you were little], you didn’t sing, ‘Made me wonder / Is this land made for you and me?'” Young says. “Those were protest songs when they came out, and they were cleaned up and milked down … and everybody got to sing them like they were happy little songs.” Many of the songs Young features on the album are ones we all grew up singing in school. In several tracks, including his version of “God Save the Queen,” a children’s choir sings background tracks. “I had them on there because these songs are usually sung in classes, so it seemed logical to have the kids sing the Crazy Horse arrangements,” Young says. “I woke up one morning a couple of months ago, and I was hearing ‘God Save the Queen’ in my head, and I thought, ‘That’s probably because when I was little, I went to school and sang ‘God Save the Queen.’ That’s what happened.’ So I kind of had this thing driven into my head, so it randomly came back, and I just happened to be recording Americana and I thought, ‘I’ll just do ‘God Save the Queen’ today and see how that works.'” MORE

 PREVIOUSLY: 5 Things You Should Know About Neil Young @ The Tower

1. It takes a lot of dead dinosaurs fossil fuel to bring Neil’s folksy brand of crunchy laidback-ness to a theater near you, just so he can deliver in person that iconic line in that iconic song – “Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 21st Century”– like that old Indian chief in the commercial standing in the white man’s trash with a tear running down his cheek. And the audience can break into spontaneous cheers and applause, as was the case Sunday night at the Tower. By my count there were at least seven semis and two huge, deluxe, diesel-belching buses out back. Just sayin’.

2. Most rockers of Neil’s stature that get to be his age without asphyxiating on their own vomit become boring-ass institutions. Neil is more like a funky University: a bit of a party school, truth be told; hacky-sack casual but soulful; not cheap but worth it, plus tuition gets you access to a vast and richly cross-referenced archives. In the last 20 years, Neil has become fairly obsessive about documenting his legacy. Jonathan Demme and film crew were on hand at the Tower Sunday night making what will prove to be, by my count, the 37th or 38th Neil Young concert film. I can’t wait to see it. MORE