Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Neil Young just released A Treasure, release #9 from the Neil Young Archives Performance Series (but only the sixth to be released, go figure). This one features a bunch of performances from his mid-'80s era when he went country in a big way.  He used a bunch of great Nashville musicians, he called them The International Harvesters. His label at the time - Geffen Records - weren't into the idea of Neil going country. He wasn't doing country rock like The Eagles or Poco, but real country music.

In a way, you can't blame them. They didn't know he was going to do country music when they signed him, they didn't have a country music department, and oh yeah, the country audience probably wasn't too eager to embrace the guy who wrote "Southern Man" and "Ohio." On the other hand, he's Neil Young, he does what he wants.

The album serves as a great epitaph for Neil's late long-time collaborator, steel guitarist Ben Keith.  Ben  started working with Neil on the Harvest album, and played on most of his non-Crazy Horse albums (and some albums with the Horse) since then. He played lots of instruments, but he was most at home playing country steel guitar, and he really shines on this record.

Much of the album features songs that have never been released commercially, but there are a few familiar ones.  "Get Back To The Country" was from his studio album with the Harvesters, Old Ways, "Are You Ready For The Country?" was from Harvest, and "Flying On The Ground Is Wrong" is an old Buffalo Springfield classic. But unlike the Springfield's music, this isn't country-influenced rock, but  straight up country music. It's too bad that the country audience wasn't more receptive to Neil (despite the fact that both Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings guested on Old Ways - but even they were part of the "outlaw" movement anyway). But this album is a great reminder of yet another interesting part of Neil's career.

No comments: