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September 20, 2012 / Erik Ritland

What Neil Young’s Americana Means to Me

I’m a huge Neil Young fan. He’s my favorite guitar player, one of my top 5 favorite songwriters, and top 3 favorite vocalists. More than that, though, I respect that he does whatever the fuck he wants regardless of what he’s told to do, what’s most beneficial for him, or what’s expected of him.

Despite my love of Young I still haven’t listened closely to his last few records. Chrome Dreams II holds a place in my heart, especially the wonderful, grandiose “Ordinary People,” and I listened to Living with War as a curiosity, but in general I’ve paid about as much attention to Young as I have any new records in the last, I don’t know, ten years.

I love the concept of Americana. Crazy Horse doing hard-hitting, electric guitar drenched versions of American folk songs, sometimes with a kids choir? The idea of it is pure Young: something creative, out of left-field. It is ideas like these that make me love and admire Neil Young as much as I do.

The soul, romance, and aesthetic of all things America that embody the Americana tradition – folk, blues, jazz, country, and rock n’ roll music, authors as diverse as James Fennimore Cooper, Walt Whitman, and William Faulkner, social and political icons beyond number, and the nameless mass of farmers, workers, and vagrants that paint the landscape – has become a significant part of me. More than history, more than where I’m from, this long tradition is soul, is life, is meaning. This album embodies all that in a way only Neil Young can do.

Read part II of this review here.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics are cataloged regularly at Ramblin’ On. You can reach him via email here.

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