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Mystery And Manners Honorary Southern Artist Volume Seven: Neil Young

Posted: Jun 18, 2008

Mystery And Manners Honorary Southern Artist: Volume Seven—Neil Young

“I’m a vampire
Sucking blood from the earth
I’m a vampire
I’ll sell you twenty barrels worth
I’m a black bat
Hanging on your window pane
I’m a black bat
I need my high octane.”
        “Vampire Blues”
        Neil Young

Canadian Neil Young always loved Nashville. His best selling album, Harvest, was recorded there as well as his reflective 2005 disc Prairie Wind. Jonathan Demme’s film Heart of Gold captured Young’s performance at The Ryman Auditorium. Young’s albums Comes A Time, Old Ways and Hawks & Doves contain country-influences Young melded into his own sound in a way that appealed to many music lovers. Upon hearing about Lynyrd Skynyrd's tragic plane crash onstage, Young led his band through "Sweet Home Alabama" which contains the classic lyrics: "Well I hope Neil Young will remember/A southern man don't need him around anyhow." One story tells Ronnie Van Zandt was buried in his Neil Young t-shirt. On Young's 1996 Broken Arrow CD a live version of Young and his band Crazy Horse playing Jimmy Reed's "Baby What You Want Me To Do" epitomizes Young's ability to incorporate traditional American music into his own incandescent sound.

Rivaled only by Bob Dylan, Neil Young contends as the most influential songwriter in the last 40 years. On his 2002 Are You Passionate? disc, Young employed the legendary Memphis group Booker T & The MGs for an album that contains Young’s personal songs with the old STAX sound. Young also recruited The Memphis Horns on various recordings as well as working with Spooner Oldham and Levon Helm. Young even flirted with rockabilly and blues on several albums during his prestigious career.

Lately, Young has released nearly an album every year. His recent albums, Prairie Wind, Living With War and Chrome Dreams II contains seeds of old traditional influences in these ruthless modern times. Young also makes films under the name Bernard Shakey. His most notable movie—Greendale (2003)—represents his own inimitable vision of fusing music in film. Young provided the eerie soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch’s brilliant film Dead Man. Young also composed the soundtrack to the  script for the weak movie based on Hunter S. Thompson called Where The Buffalo Roam.

Young’s latest film, CSNY: Déjà Vu, contains political issues which includes footage of a show in Atlanta where the crowd headed “for the turnstiles” due to Young’s critical stance on the Bush administration. Young’s 2006 disc—Living With War—represents a venomous perspective on the war on terror.

Young plays an important role in Farm Aid with Willie Nelson regarding the sacred cause of the American farmer. A long-time gadget freak—trains, guitars, cars—Young also works to discover alternative fuels and serves as a spokesman for Go Earth.

There’s no doubt, Neil Young’s an honorary southern artist…Are You Ready For The Country? Cause It’s Time To Go…

James Calemine

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