Neil Young follows his own heart. His musical whims can exact an exasperating toll on his fans. "Fork in the Road" served itself as a powerful message at a time of economic disaster but it fell short of the impact of the power delivered by "Living with War." "Greendale" delivered a strong warning about our ecology and the strains delivered on our lives by the ever present, style over substance driven media.
The last decade has seen some incredibly power music punctuated by "Prairie Wind." But missing in the decade was Crazy Horse. Neil delivered Crazy Horse, but in a way that has left many fans scratching their heads. "Americana" is a collection of old time ballads and working songs with a power acoustical tradition. But Neil delivers these classic like a shotgun blast with Crazy Horse and the whimsical backing provided by a children's choir. Some of it works, but as a cohesive theme it feels lacking.
Neil's earned the right to try just about anything he wants. I was highly skeptical of Bruce Springsteen's "Pete Seeger Sessions." It took me a long time to embrace this music from the boss. Bob Dylan's double whack at blues standards "Good as I've been to You" and "World Gone Wrong" in the early 90's served as a launching pad that propelled Dylan back to some of his best writing and the classic "Time Out of Mind."
Neil's allowed to stumble. But in the shadow of the epic "Le Noise", "Americana just comes off as rough as a corn cob. Another follow up with Crazy Horse apparently awaits in the wings. I hope some rib rattling rock and roll awaits. We've waited much too long for the return of the Horse.