Neil Young and Crazy Horse are at it again, putting their trademark proto-grunge spin on a song most people associate with banjo-pickers and gold-rushers.
"Oh Susannah," which debuted on Stereogum this morning, isn't instantly recognizable as a cover of "Oh! Susanna," the 19th-century minstrel tune written by "Camptown Races" composer Stephen Foster. Like such venerable Crazy Horse tracks as "Powderfinger" and "Tonight's the Night," it features shambling rhythms, haunting harmonies, and the serpentine meanderings of "Old Black," the 1953 Les Paul that Young has been playing for most of his career.
But Young promised nothing less back in March, when he announced that he and Crazy Horse would be releasing "Americana," their first album together since 1996. At the time, he told Rolling Stone that the album, due out June 5, would feature "songs we all know from kindergarden, but Crazy Horse has rearranged them, and they now belong to us."
Not everyone is a fan of the signature Crazy Horse sound. According to Jimmy McDonough's Shakey: The Neil Young Biography, David Crosby once said of Young's longtime backing band, "They should've never been allowed to be musicians at all. They should've been shot at birth." But many fans prefer Young's raw recordings with Crazy Horse to his polished creations with Crosby, Stills and Nash.
What do you think of Neil Young and Crazy Horse's "Americana"? Is it a new classic, or a bastardization of an American heirloom?