ALBUMS: Neil Young Goes Barnstorming

Crazy Horse returns to its roots…nearly all of them that is…

Neil Young + Crazy Horse Barn, Reprise Records 2021

There are certain artists that are aptly described as musical, chameleons due in large part to their refusal to remain confined within any one particular style or genre.

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David Bowie was one of those. The Beatles could be classified the same way. That said, there’s no one who better exemplifies that schizophrenic stance than Neil Young. Over the course of his more than. Half century solo career, he’s dabbled in rock, psychedelia, grunge, country, folk, synth sounds, and practically every genre in-between. 


Artist: Neil Young + Crazy Horse

Album: Barn

Label: Reprise Records

★★★★1/2 (4.5/5 stars) 


Lately, Young’s focused more on archival offerings, encompassing a pair of extensive box sets and revisits to certain classic albums that he considers candidates for a refresh or return. Naturally, that’s of interest to his fans and followers who cling to every effort in that regard as if they were [ a true treasure at the end of the of a proverbial rainbow. 

As if Young hasn’t plowed his catalog enough in recent times — he released no less than five archival artifacts over the course of the last year alone, including the recent lead-in to what he’s now referring to as his newly-minted “bootleg” series, At Carnegie Hall 1970 — he’s also apparently eager to prove he’s not content to simply rest on his laurels. He’s a multitasker after all, and in that regard, he’s always been determined to keep moving forward.

 

 

That said, his new opus, Barn, takes a journey to the past in a way of its own, having reunited Young with his seminal backing band, Crazy Horse, and the players that encompassed its first incarnation — original guitarist Nils Lofgren, drummer Ralph Molina and bassist Billy Talbot. Not surprisingly then, certain songs — “Heading West,” “Today’s People” and “Welcome Back” bring to mind the trademark sound of early iconic entities such as Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, On the Beach, Zuma, American Stars ’n Bars, Ragged Glory, Sleeps With Angels and a myriad of others that shared the ragged, off-kilter trademark approach that helped embolden Young’s reputation as a renegade rocker. On the other hand, he doesn’t stop there. He dips a toe into his folkier persona with “Don’t Forget Love,” and takes the Horse on a rare turn towards the country rock motif of Harvest and Harvest Moon with “Song of the Season” and “Tumblin’ Through the Years.” 

Barn also reminds listeners that Young hasn’t completely forsaken his soapbox quite yet, The grungy “Canarican” uses his dual Canadian/American citizenship as an analogy for America’s now-faded reputation as a proverbial melting pot. The aforementioned “Today’s People” serves as a warning not to despoil the environment for those that will inherit it later on.

In that sense then, the new album could be called archetypical Young, a sampler of sorts that more or less epitomizes most of the music he’s traversed over the broad course of his career. Those that have missed him in his present incarnation might easily typify Barn as a most welcome return.

 

VIDEO: Neil Young + Crazy Horse “Welcome Back”

 

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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