Neil Young fans tend to be very loyal despite the fact that their musical hero has thrown them for a loop multiple times, veering off into horn-laden R&B with This Note's For You, bombing big time with the Vocoder exercise Trans and puzzling everyone with the nearly indecipherable Arc.
No doubt fans have been panicking ever since it was announced that Young's new one Americana would be a collection of hoary folk songs, possibly imagining that Neil would be imitating the Kingston Trio with acoustic versions of songs like "Tom Dooley."
Young does perform "Tom Dooley," here called "Tom Dula," but he does it with electric back-up from Crazy Horse and it's fascinating how memorable and hook-filled the band's version of the old saw is. The guitar-heavy jam is typical Crazy Horse rockin' even though it's not as incendiary as many past works; really it's the background chanting of the song title that makes this one stick in your head.
"Clementine" also seems primarily like an excuse for Crazy Horse to just riff out, and that's not a bad thing, but everything clicks spectacularly on album highlight "Oh Susannah;" Young and guitarist Poncho Sampedro lay into a funky boogie that's instantly recognizable as Crazy Horse while background vocals again provide a killer hook with Young obviously relishing his lead as he sings "I come from Alabama with a b-a-n-j-o on my knee!"
Not everything is done in the classic Crazy Horse style though; "Get a Job" is performed as Sha Na Na-like doo wop, "Gallows Pole" is a swinging blues, and "This Land is Your Land" gets the appropriate hay-in-your-hair country treatment.
Americana marks the first time that Young has cut an album with Crazy Horse in nearly nine years and clearly they're having a ball, as witnessed by the post-song studio chatter heard at the end of some songs.
There's no pigeon-holing Neil Young ever but with Americana there's absolutely no reason to panic either unless you're going to be embarrassed at how much fun you have singing along to songs you haven't put your pipes to since 5th Grade.