Americana. Tis a wonderous style that many a wannabe immigrant tend to emulate. Artistically and stylistically. The fourth of July is nearly upon, so whenever the media decides to get over its nauseating Royal family obsession, the next trend they will be cooing over will most likely be that of Americana. Prepare for magazine spread with Star Spangled banner embellishments and classic American pie recipes.
I was thralling through a little music shop the other day, trying to decide what to do with my last fifteen euro, when what should I see before me but this:
It was in the new releases section. I was perplexed. I thought this collaboration had long since ceased recording together. Checking the date in disbelief, seeing a 2012 stamp, I purchased the album with unbinding excitement and anticipation.
Once out in the car, upon further inspection while pouring over the enclosed booklet, it revealed itself to be a bit of a concept record, the hint lying in the title Americana. It is a collection of folk songs and ballads, shaken up with an alternative edge by Young and Crazy Horse.
Something about American folk has always been haunting. It may be the lonesome vagabond quality attached to the voice of the respective singer; most likely however, it is attributable to the underling presence of the Frontier Myth and the colonisation of the Native American people. Folk embodies conflicting emotions: the pride of the Frontier Myth and the so-called honour attached to that, and subsequent disintegration and obliteration of Native tribes.
Geronimo himself is referenced in the album art, where Neil Young and Crazy Horse's heads have been superimposed onto a press photo of Geronimo in a Locomoblie during a 101 Ranch Show in 1906. Geronimo's significance as a historical American figure complements the weighted themes of American folk. Geronimo was a Bedonkohe Apache leader who rebelled and protested against the infiltration by Mexico and America into Apache tribes.
The song "Clementine" is particularly resonant when recalling the history that the sleeve refers to. The harmony is eerily reminiscent of a war chant, possessing the same charging momentum as Johnny Cash's "Ghost Riders In The Sky". It evokes resilience and strength, and a unity that reinforces the usual solitude of lone folk heroes.
Another tune on offer, "Oh Susannah", epitomises what Americana has done with what one assumed were traditional and outdated songs. You anticipate that Young will simply croon his way through a rendition of Oh Susannah and beg her to cry for him, but instead they have delivered a grungey orchestration, leaving a decidedly melancholic stamp on a otherwise old hat.
This is a case of faith in folk being revitalised with a spirit of transgression, essential to that of any American arts canon. Neil Young and Crazy Horse lift away the stigma of cringe-inducing "she'll be coming round the mountain when she come" narratives, to instead present a story of gravitas and integrity. "Jesus' Chariot", similarly to Clementine, retains the momentum of the chant and serves to reinstate folk as a musical force once again.