It’s been nine years since the release of a proper Neil Young and Crazy Horse album, and needless to say the announcement of the new disc aptly titled Americana due out on 5/12/2012 has been met with a great deal of excitement. That said, a recent interview with Neil divulging details about the new album consisting of “mostly grade school tunes” was a bit confusing, and honestly tempered a bit of the excitement for many of us.
Well, if you haven’t figured this out by now, Neil Young is going to do pretty much whatever he wants to do, and for the most part he is going to do it well. I admittedly was a bit baffled as to how the “grade school” jams were going to work out, but after checking out The Horse’s take on one of the first songs I ever heard “Oh Susannah” I have to say I am quite intrigued. When it comes to standards, it’s all about the performance and the arrangement and Neil and the Horse have done a good job with both.
Check out the band as they find their groove on “Oh Susannah” like you’ve never heard it before in the player below and get amped for Americana, due out June 5th.
So in case you haven’t heard by now, Neil Young is back in the studio with his on again off again partners in crime Crazy Horse. Word on the street is that Young and the boys not only have a new album in the can, but are working on yet another new disc as we speak. This morning, Young added to the excitement by dropping the following video on his website, neilyoung.com. The video is a 38 minute jam session presumably recorded as recently as this week. This seems to be nothing more than a jam session, but it is excited to hear Neil and Crazy Horse rocking it out (about 19 minutes in, they go into the Zuma standard “Cortez the Killer”). Unfortunately, the video doesn’t capture any of the action itself, but it does keep things interesting with a little studio tour. Check it out below:
This weekend, Farm Aid celebrated 25 years of support for American family farmers, making it the longest running benefit concert series in America. In addition to providing $37 million in aid, the festival has also turned out some great music over the years. This year was no different, featuring performances from Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Dave Matthews, & John Mellencamp topped off other MOR faves Jeff Tweedy and Band of Horses.
A new addition to this year’s festival is the addition of pro-shot HD videos for a great deal of the show’s performances. While these videos are lightly destined for DVD or Public Access TV somewhere down the road, you can check em out for free now. Below are a few of our favorites, but you can also check out Farm Aid’s YouTube page for the whole lot. Like the videos and what the festival is all about? Why not throw them a couple bucks while your there.
In case you hadn’t heard by now, Neil Young just completed his latest solo album, Le Noise with super producer Daniel Lanois. Last week, we posted the video for one of the album’s highlight tracks “Hitchhiker”, but now thanks to Neil and NPR you can listen to the whole album before it’s release next week.
The new record features 8 tracks of Neil Young and his guitar, coupled only with Lanois’ studio wizardry – no band, no overdubs. Lanois, who has a history of bringing the best out of high profile rock acts (U2, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel to name a few), comes through once again as Neil turns in his most inspired work in years.
Head on over to NPR’s site to stream the album in it’s entirety. Le Noise will be released on September 28th, but the free stream will be available until 10/5.
After a few listens of Neil Young’s upcoming Daniel Lanois produced album Le Noise, the song “Hitchhiker” began to stand out and really grab my attention as a stand out track. Like all the other tracks on the album, the track features Neil, unaccompanied with nothing but a guitar and some Lanois studio trickery. Gritty guitar licks take center stage here as he spins an unabashed tale of fame and excess.
The new video is a perfect compliment for this gritty new tune, again featuring nothing but Neil and his Les Paul, rocking away. If you like this track, you are in luck. The new album drops 9/28, with 7 more songs of nothing but an unaccompanied Neil Young.
In the year 2010, it’s pretty damn near impossible to write music that is truly unique. I think we can all agree at this stage in the game that art in general is a constant reinvention of elements and techniques scattered throughout history. It’s a “modern ritual” almost, to borrow from those who’ve come before us. Picasso ripped off African tribal art and Zeppelin ripped off the Blues. I mean, let’s be honest, you can’t exactly create a new color or discover a new tone. (On this planet at least). Therefore it pretty much comes down to what you do with what you’ve got. Santa Monica-based rockers known simply as, Chief, draw much of their inspiration from early 70′s acts like The Band, Neil Young and The Beach Boys and aren’t shy about their classic roots. Mind you, they don’t sound like any of those bands outright but after some heavy listening to their debut album “Modern Rituals”, the harmonies and gleaming guitars definitely take you back.
Lead singer Evan Koga’s up-and-down vocals range somewhere in between two modern vocalists, Hamilton Leithauser (The Walkmen) and James Skelly (The Coral) but the simple lush harmonies and layered guitars might be mistaken for clean vintage tunes your Dad used to rock in his youth. Brothers Danny and Michael Fujikawa (on vocals/ guitar and drums, respectively) and Mike Moonves (bass) round out the tribe. Danny sings lead on a few songs himself and brings a soft, almost melancholy style which works well on laid back jams such as “This Land” and the slow-building — rocker “You Tell Me.” There’s plenty of solid, clean guitar work layered throughout so don’t think this is just a couple of long-haired hippies strumming along in the back shed. The pace of the album is varied perfectly and I’m still shocked to realize this is a band’s first album in the sheer variety of songs. The production is spot on and every sound has a place. No filler here.
Lush, upbeat and soaring tunes about the usual “coming-of age” suspects (heartbreak, summer days and dreamy nostalgia) make this an easily accessible album and a sleeper LP that should pop up on any decent music critic’s end of year list. It’s a great debut from a promising band we hope to see more from. While it might be a little early to declare them “chiefs” of modern rock this is one band sure to move quickly up the totem pole.
Guest Writer: Brooks Hays
A lot of artists these days are riffing on the vintage Laurel Canyon alt-folk vibe, but Blitzen Trapper coat their well-crafted version with a unique postmodern veneer, half cabin-in-the woods, half big-city neon lights. As their eclectic, off-the-wall effort Furr demonstrated, and their newest title track confirms, the band takes an epic romp through all manners of psychedelia, prog-rock, and alt-country. Blitzen Trapper seasons their particular brand of Americana folk-rock with a variety of dynamic flavors; it could be the shimmering prog-flare of Bowie, the earnestness of Neil Young, the energy and spunk of Freddie Mercury or the lo-fi spontaneity of Beck in his folkier days.
What I loved so much about Furr was Blitzen Trapper’s ability to switch gears and fast, mimicking Dylan on the title track, then Neil Young precisely and delightfully on “Not Your Lover,” later Queen on the spirited “Saturday Night,” and so on and so forth. Destroyer of the Void finds the band both picking up where they left off and narrowing their focus. Certainly there is still a little of the Ziggy Stardust glam and “Bohemian Rhapsody”-like glitz to color tracks like “Laughing Lover” and “Love and Hate” but the bulk of the album falls back on their most consistent, quieter and largely acoustic, folk-ballad formula – “The Tree” and “Dragon’s Song” are particularly nice examples. Several songs sound like exact extensions of previous tracks, going back to familiar sonic themes and topics. “The Man Who Would Speak True” picks up the backwoods murder ballad where “Black River Killer” left off. “Heaven and Earth” sounds like a “Not Your Lover” reprise. Elsewhere the band continues to meander through the dynamics of epic and metaphoric struggle between good and evil, man and machine, the rural and the urban. On other songs they rediscover both the spiritual and the natural world, touching on ideas of metamorphosis, reincarnation, and Transcendentalism (only this time it’s a tree instead of a wolf).
Blitzen Trapper’s folk-rock pastiche is not forced, or vain, or empty. For brief moments it may prove tedious, but more often than not, it’s immensely interesting, organic, and genuine. The harmonies are rich and beautiful, the acoustic fingerpicking is celestial and nimbly employed, and the words are poetic and deftly weaved, mixing the sentimental simplicity of the hippie-children, back-to-the-landers’ ethic with the word-play and rhythm of a well-versed, coffee-house beatnik. While Destroyer of the Void is not quite as exciting as their last two efforts, it exhibits a band truly finding their comfort zone, still with plenty of room for future exploration, and plenty more stories to tell I’m sure.
Check out Blitzen Trapper’s 2010 tour schedule here.
About halfway through his “Twisted Road” solo tour, Neil Young is starting to mix in some new material into his star studded setlist. At his Washington D.C. show earlier this week, Young played stripped down solo versions of 5 new songs “Sign of Love”, “You Never Call”, “Leia”, “Peaceful Valley”, and “Love and War”. One would presume that these songs are from his upcoming Daniel Lanois collaboration, but knowing Neil, you can never really be sure.
Luckily for us, some videos with decent sound quality have popped up on Youtube of the new songs. Check out videos of all five new songs below, I have a feeling they won’t last very long.
While the news that Neil Young is working on a new album might have surfaced a few months ago, it is the latest development that has really gotten our interest; Neil is working with producer Daniel Lanois on the album. Lanois’ portfolio includes some of U2′s best work (Joshua Tree, Actung Baby, All That You Can’t Leave Behind), a few of Dylan’s late career gems (Oh Mercy, Time Out of Mind), and other fine albums with Emmylou Harris, Robbie Robertson, and Peter Gabriel.
This news comes from Young’s pal David Crosby who told Rolling Stone “Neil told me last week that he was having a great time talking music with him(Lanois) and just relating to him.” He also volunteered his services to his former collaborator saying “If you want a harmony, I’m volunteering.”
Neil has rarely worked with big name producers over the years, especially lately where his last several albums have been largely self-produced or co-produced with Niko Bolas and the late L.A. Johnson.
Lanois seems to have a track record of getting great efforts out of established artists, and providing a fine finished product. While they have had their moments, Neil’s last few albums have left a little something to be desired; hopefully this collaboration can help fill the void. While this one may be a while off, it is hopefully a good sign of things to come.
With today being the last day of winter, and tomorrow marking the first day of spring, we wanted to pull together a playlist to mark the occasion. Open some windows, turn up the volume, and say goodbye to Old Man Winter. Hopefully the weather will follow our lead. Some songs are old, and some are new, but they are all great tunes for that perfect Spring day.
Every year about this time, the Grammy awards pop up and set the blogs and music message boards on fire with calls for relevance and better representation for non-mainstream music. This year was no different as the majority of the major awards went to the who’s who of popular radio.
In the end, the Grammy’s are what they are, year in and year out. An overblown spectacle complete with predictable awards and bloated “performances” from flavor of the month entertainers. While it is a shame that America’s largest music awards ceremony has gone the way of the FM radio, every year there are exceptions(although they rarely make the broadcast). While the calls for the Grammy’s legitimacy may have their merit, it is nice to see some great work be honored, even if they are relegated to the categories at the bottom of the page.
While I am in no position to second guess every category and say who should have won what; I can recognize some of the winners who’s work I have really appreciated this year.
Best Alternative Music Album - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – Phoenix
I am not sure exactly what entails an Alternative Music Album, but I am sure this album has it. A very solid album that brought this band into another stratosphere.
Best Pop Instrumental Performance – Throw Down Your Heart – Bela Fleck
The man can play the banjo! From his “Tales of the Acoustic Planet” Series, I didn’t realize traditional African music classified as pop music, but Bella takes his show to Africa and comes out with a Grammy. Works for me.
Best Rock Instrumental Performance – A Day in The Life – Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck is a guitar monster, and this live take on the Beatle’s classic is flat out awesome. While his version of this song has been around for years, this cut from the “Live at Ronnie Scotts” gets him the trophy.
Best Pop Instrumental Album – Potato Hole – Booker T. Jones
Booker T or Booker T and the MG’s fame gets the Drive By Truckers and Neil Young as his backing band. Yes, it is pretty cool.
Best Long Form Music Video – The Beatles – All Together Now
There is just something about the Beatles winning Grammy in yet another decade that makes me grin. The “Love” Show is awesome, why should the behind the scenes documentary be any different?
Best Americana Album: Electric Dirt – Levon Helm
We knew he had the Americana sound in him. After all, he was the only American in “The Band”; widely known for their roots Americana sound. “Electric Dirt” and Levon Helm are as about as Americana as it gets, sorry Wilco!
Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package: Neil Young Archives Vol. 1
Yeah, this is an award for packaging, but this box set was incredible, and any awards it gets are good in my book.
Best Contemporary Blues Album: Already Free – The Derek Trucks Band
Beating his wife out for this award probably won’t win him any points at home, this has to feel good.(Susan Tedeschi also nominated for her Album “Back to the River) With a pretty busy day job with the Allman Brothers, it is great to see Derek honored for his hard work on this album
Best Contemporary Folk Album: Townes – Steve Earle
This album full of songs by his mentor Townes Van Zandt was a pretty close to home project for the troubadour Earle. Too bad this one wasn’t broadcast, knowing Steve this is one acceptance speech I would have liked to have seen.