Another successful effort
The genre that has always stood the test of time is the singer-songwriter. No matter the trends or the times, the intimacy and vulnerability surrounding a single person with a single instrument onstage have long been emotions beloved by all. There are many genres: folk fans love Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, people who love the piano adore Elton John and Billy Joel and anyone who wants to see experimentation will love Iggy Pop and Elvis Costello. But in rock, one name has always stood supreme: Neil Young.
Young, who hails from the prairies of Manitoba, Canada, has released a novel’s worth of songs over his career, under a variety of different hats. He was a part of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby Stills Nash & Young, but the vast majority of his work was done by himself, whether with his longtime backing band Crazy Horse or completely solo. With the former his songs have a harder edge, while the latter are often minimalistic, pensive and deeply personal. His latest release, Homegrown, follows the second path.
Despite the 2020 release date, Homegrown is extremely old. All the songs were recorded back in 1974, one of the most creative years of Young’s life. He recorded multiple albums that year, but when it came time to release one, Young went with Tonight’s The Night, shelving Homegrown for another time. Finally, for the next chapter of his Archives project, that album is coming out in 2020.
Young’s solo work is known for it’s minimalistic arrangements, and Homegrown is no exception. In addition to his signature acoustic guitar, “Love Is A Rose” mixes in an acoustic bass to add a folksy tinge. “Kansas” and “Little Wing” are trademark Young acoustic musings, with a bit of harmonica sprinkled on top. There are several distorted moments as well. Crazy Horse make an appearance on the title track, while “We Don’t Smoke It No More” has a shredding blues solo and bar-room piano in the background. Young experiments as well; for example, he taps into his inner Elton John on “Mexico,” and “Florida” is merely two minutes of a recorded conversation about the Sunshine State with only an eerie wine-glass chime for company.
Lyrically, love is the prevailing feeling. “Separate Ways” is a tearful goodbye after a breakup, while “Try” is an attempt to resurrect lost love. “Vacancy” is attempting to fend off the temptations of infidelity, and “Love Is A Rose” is a cautionary tale to the listener: while love is wonderful and beautiful, if you mess up the thorns will get you. Other topics include a not-so-subtle reference to drug use (“White Line”) and the fleeting nature of temporary happiness (“Star of Bethlehem”).
All in all, there’s no disputing Young is one of the greatest songwriters ever, and Homegrown is another piece of evidence to prove it.