Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Album Review: Neil Young- A Letter Home

Neil Young
A Letter Home
**and1/2 out of *****
Pairing up two artists who follow the muse to the ends of the earth can yield wildly exciting results or burnout in a flaming ball of shit, so it is odd that A Letter Home cuts a middle of the road path from legend Neil Young.

While it is billed as a Neil Young solo album this couldn't have existed without Jack White who provided the unique Voice-O-Graph vinyl recording booth that inspired the album. White's label put out the disk and he also performs on piano and vocals during 2 of the best performances here. First a rambling off the tracks take of Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again" and then an album closing swaying spin of "I Wonder If I Care As Much" from The Everly Brothers.

The whole vinyl release is designed as it title suggests with Young talking to his deceased mother during the spoken word intro and playing her songs they both loved in the past. Like typical old Uncle Neil his brain wanders around requesting his mom to make up with his father before diving into Global Warming and Al Gore; the only thing ever consistent about Young is that nothing is ever consistent. 

The covers are standard fair with Young returning to his old folky days and not really stretching his range or palette. A lone acoustic guitar and high scratchy voice dig into the crackles of the recording booth on songs by Bob Dylan ("Girl From The North Country"), Bruce Springsteen ("My Hometown") and Phil Ochs ("Changes"). A nice surprise is returning Tim Hardin's "Reason To Believe" to it's folk roots with a piano/harmonica pairing and hearing Young cover his buddy Nelson a second time via the classic "Crazy".     

Like Nelson Gordon Lightfoot gets 2 nods on the album "If I Could Read Your Mind" and "Early Morning Rain" as Neil gives props to his fellow Canadian. More effecting though is the version of Scottish folk singer Burt Jansch's "Needle Of Death", putting the listener back into a Tonight's The Night state of mind.

There is a fine line between kitschy cool and cheese ball, A Letter Home manages to stay on the successful side of that divide, but it is close. While unessential, it is still a nice slice of audio history to play back every now and then for fans of Young or the folk songs he loves.
We love Neil and Jack, no shock there, this is fun but breezy/tame, sounding like the one off record it was meant to be.

Support the artist here, buy the album here and peep some video below:
"Reason To Believe"

Live "Needle Of Death" from Carnegie Hall.

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