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Design By Humans
Published On: Thu, Jun 5th, 2014

Neil Young: A Letter Home

neil young letter homeNeil Young
A Letter Home
(Reprise Records)

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Opening with a scratchy-sound recording that will be evident throughout (and mostly too distracting), “A Letter Home Intro” is a spoken message from Neil Young to his dead mom and dad and ex-bandmate Ben Keith. “Changes” sees Neil on acoustic singing his warbly, best cover of what I feel is not the strongest Phil Ochs tune. With Jack White producing and setting the scene for these first two songs and the rest of this album (and lending a hand on some playing and singing) Neil recorded A Letter Home in what amounts to not much more than a phone booth with some basic instruments for that old-timey feel.

Young reveals some interesting covers here, including Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country” with its solid, whiny, delicate touch. Plinky piano and harmonica and Neil more or less talking are featured through the second Willie Nelson tune he manages here, “On the Road Again” (he gives us a useless “Crazy” too) and the beginning of “Reason To Believe” has Neil explaining how he has found some old songs and is recording them for his “ma.” “Needle of Death” sees Neil whistling an intro on Bert Jansch’s cover (Young’s classic “The Needle and The Damage Is Done” about the same subject, is a much stronger tune I feel), “The Early Morning Rain” is a nice country traveling tune, and plaintive vocals and harmonica inform Young’s cover of “Since I Met You Baby,” maybe the best tune here for me. Covering Springsteen’s “My Home Town” though takes me out of the concept, as it is too recent a tune. The bluesy closer cover of the Everly Brothers’  “I Wonder If I Care As Much” sees Neil dueting nicely with White.

I’m not sure what the exact point of A Letter Home might be. There are only slightly competent renditions here at best and the sound quality so truly sucks (yes, I get the concept and vibe they were going for). I thought to myself after a few listens…is it worth wading through this?

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Neil Young: A Letter Home